BATS Theatre, Wellington

26/04/2012 - 28/04/2012

Production Details

That’s So Gay (TSG) is a new collaborative theatre production between young people from School’s Out, Wellington, and students from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.  

That’s So Gay opens at BATS Theatre on Thursday 26 April and runs till Saturday 28 April, 6.30pm nightly.

TSG is a culmination of true lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, straight and transgender (LGBPST) stories that reflect the lives of Wellington youth today, gathered, devised, and performed by them.

Directed by Toni Regan, who is completing her ‘Master of Theatre Arts in Directing’ at Toi Whakaari, TSG began as an idea inspired by Anny da Silva Freitas. A counsellor, youth and community worker, Da Silva Freitas was tired of hearing the pejorative use of the phrase “that’s so gay” in everyday language. She wants to challenge this put down: “being gay is not dumb or stupid, it’s who I am and there are many like me that share the same view”.

From this idea, Regan and da Silva Freitas began a project that has developed into a collaborative community theatre production with School’s Out, Wellington. A group of Toi Whakaari students and 13 young people from School’s Out (aged 16 to 26) have devised the play, which is made up of ‘moments’ created from stories about the young people’s experiences. TSG is an opportunity for them to reflect their stories back to themselves, whilst sharing them with the local Wellington community. Devising was modelled on the process used by Moises Kaufman, the creator and director of The Laramie Project.

A truly collaborative community theatre production, TSG is created from ‘moments’ that are enquiring, comedic, challenging, revealing, and touching.

That’s So Gay 
Reflecting our stories
Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 April 2012
6.30pm at BATS Theatre, Wellington  

Harriet Lane Tobin
Harlyn Wilkinson
Joanna Jackson
Keith Labad
Isla Findlay
Anny da Silva Freitas 

Costume/Props: Jessica Thomas
Set Designer: Sasha Tilly
Lighting Designer and Operator: Gaby Perez
Production Manager – Tabitha Besley
Stage Manager - Ellen Aiken 
Stage Hand: Jessica Thomas 
Front of House: Caitlin Rabel   

30 mins + 30 mins discussion time

Prejudice explored

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st May 2012

Although coming out for gay and lesbians has become progressively easier over the years, especially for young people, homophobia still abounds, especially in institutions such as schools.  That prejudice and put downs still exist in these environments is clearly evident from the That’s So Gay group whose play of the same title is playing early evenings at BATS Theatre.

The production is a collaborative work between young people from School’s Out, Wellington, and students from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School under the direction of Master of Theatre Arts in Directing at Toi Whakaari, Toni Regan.  

Starting from the premise that the pejorative use of “that’s so gay” by young people in everyday language was as an all-embracing put down, the group gathered together 13 young gay and lesbian’s to share their stories and experiences.  What came out was that “being gay is not dumb or stupid” and that identity and “who I am” were key to many of these young people’s experiences.

From these stories they chose 18 moments as the basis of their production, and devised ways of expressing each through the medium of theatre, to not only to share with an audience but with themselves.

Like many devised works some aspects of the production work better than others but the creative and innovative way in which they presented these moments using a minimum of props and costumes was engaging and often thought provoking even if the meaning of some were lost through their brevity.  

The cast of 6; Harriet Lane Tobin , Harlyn Wilkinson , Joanna Jackson, Keith Labad, Isla Findlay and Anny da Silva Freitas all showed they identified with the subject matter and performed with energy even though at times some were a little inarticulate and the background music often drowned out the dialogue.

Particularly telling was Torn; being excluded after coming out and then in contrast was the comic birthday party in Gay Day.  On line prejudice through the vagaries of Facebook was of course included in one of the moments and the horrors of a straight guy picking up a girl who was in fact a guy in drag in Ellie Kitten was funny and telling.

Through these moments it was made obvious that prejudice to gay and lesbians’ is still, unfortunately, alive and well even today, but the courage of this group to stand up and be counted and to use theatre as a vehicle to tell their stories is to be applauded. 


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Some good discussion-starters but could be more entertaining

Review by John Smythe 27th Apr 2012

The title of this community theatre production – directed by Toni Regan* and devised with the six cast members plus three others and four credited writers – arose from one of them (a social worker) constantly hearing “That’s so gay!” used as a put-down and finding it offensive and homophobic.

As a collaborative theatre production between students from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and young people from School’s Out, Wellington (a hangout/support group for young people identifying as queer, lesbian, gay, transgender, takatapui, fa’afafine, genderqueer, androgynous, bisexual, pansexual, intersex, curious, unsure, questioning, and their friends), the community from which the material is sourced is clear. 

The 18 ‘moments’ that comprise the show also serve that community by offering recognisable moments of truth and the odd challenge to the preconceptions some may have towards the others – e.g. the ‘Lesbetron 5000’ sales pitch which gives a nudge to butch lesbians who don’t accept feminine lesbians; the ‘Ellie Kitten’ rant against gays who rail against drag queens.

Throughout the development process the crew used finger-clicks to indicate approval of something they agreed with or related to, or which resonated in some way, and we in the audience are invited to do the same. My guess is most of the opening night audience was gay or very attuned to gay culture and the attendant issues.

In the opening night’s post show discussion (the half-hour show allows a further half for discussion) the notion of taking it to schools was canvassed, raising the question of how well the show might work for a predominantly straight audience. As a community theatre piece, is consciousness-raising one of its objectives? If so, are the dramatised ‘moments’ clear enough to those not already attuned to them?

For example, the moment entitled ‘Why?’ expresses the inner thoughts of a woman who thought she was gay by nature until she remembered “Her … Groomed … Taught … Now I don’t know why.” Much clicking from the audience. It is a good moment for drawing us into ‘discovery’. But I’m thinking this can only be ‘got’ by those with a fair level of awareness. Or is it sufficient to provoke a post-show question, and if so, how would the company go about discussing it? How much would the person who provided the moment from personal experience be prepared to talk about it openly to strangers? (Presumably contact details for School’s Out would be the back-up offered a school child for whom this is a personal issue.)

The Queer/Straight Alliance ‘moment’, where a young man is trying to encourage ‘straights’ to join, would be a good discussion-starter (they already exist in a number of schools – see this year-old Gay Express article).

Earlier, a moment called ‘Four Eyes Lament’ – I’m not sure why – has a predatory guy (played by a woman) coaching a young man on how to ‘pull’ a woman, with a range of desperate pick-up lines. Given its context in this show, are we supposed to get that he’s diffident about it because he’s gay? Are we then expected to read the predatory behaviour as standard hetero male behaviour? If so, I have to say I find that offensive and heterophobic.

The beer crates that dot the stage are used in ‘Mine’ to evoke the experience of exclusion: a gay woman is denied a box even though there is one spare. But it then escalates into a depiction of individual greed and personal acquisitiveness, which I felt was tangential until the discussion suggested it was the same syndrome taken to its logical conclusion.  

‘Barbie’s Dream Truck’ is clear to the point of possibly being banal for this audience: girl happily plays with truck; boy happily plays with Barbie; toys are taken from them and given to the other; unhappiness ensues. Then again it could be a good discussion-starter for a schools audience.

The sudden change from being popular to being ostracised after coming out is heart-felt, in ‘Torn’, and a definite starter for healthy discussion in schools. I didn’t get the ‘Nature vs Nurture’ moment, maybe because it had something to do with gaming which is not one of my pastimes.

The surprise ‘Gay Day’ party is fun but – as often was the case last night – the punchline was lost through bad projection. Playing music over dialogue when many of the voices are untrained is counter-productive and needs to be addressed.

The ‘Facebook’ exchange provoked by a school not allowing same-sex partners to attend the annual ball is entertaining, provided you recall that issue so know what they are talking about. On a purely theatrical level, however, the staging and the use of the thumbs-up ‘Like’ icon could be more comically choreographed.

The show is book-ended by ‘Dear Kitty’ communications involving a woman taking a trip and having a liberating experience, the exact nature of which eludes me, making me feel somewhat excluded too.

As theatre That’s So Gay could be much more enlightening, provocative, touching and therefore entertaining, with sharper scripting and more decisive directing. But I guess its purpose is not to be a satirical political revue (although the raw material could be developed that way). Even so, with all those writers and devisers … This points, I expect, to the question of how democracy may work most effectively in the development process. 

As community theatre – of, by and for the gay community – it offers a sanctuary of understanding with a bit of intra-community provocation. As a discussion-starter for the wider community, the proof of its value will be in the discussions.

– – – – – –
*towards her Toi Whakaari / Victoria University of Wellington Master of Theatre Arts (Directing).    


John Smythe May 3rd, 2012

Aaarrgghh!! I hate it when that happens and apologise unreservedly both as reviewer and editor. Thank you Sylvia. Fixed now. 

Sylvia Bagnall May 3rd, 2012

Note to both reviewers- the plural of lesbian is "lesbians" not "lesbian's".  Please watch your apostrophes.

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