Monday, February 06, 2012

Appalachian author's play focuses on discrimination against LGBT residents in rural communities

Kentucky author Silas House intended to write his first play about mountaintop-removal coal mining, but he changed his mind because of several incidents linked to a failed attempt to establish a fairness ordinance in the town of Berea protecting rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. House is director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College, and says his play, "This Is My Heart For You," is "loosely based on an incident in Hazard," Ky., in which two gay men were kicked out of a public pool for public displays of affection, reports Crystal Wylie of The Richmond Register.

The town where the play is set is divided on whether the pool manager is a bigot or a hero. House told Wylie his play "shines a light on the bigger issues of equality, hypocrisy, and compassion in America today." He got a lot of material from discussion threads about the Berea fairness ordinance and the Hazard pool incident on One whole scene is taken almost verbatim from a discussion on the site. "If you’re looking into the heart of a community in modern America," House said, "you must go to" (The head of Topix has said it gets more traffic from Kentucky than any other state.)

The play is fair to both sides of the debate, House said. It's not a critique or "taking fundamentalists and tearing them apart," he said; it's a look "into the heart of a town and all their complexities." He says faith is a continuing theme in the play, with characters just trying to "stick to their beliefs." He made a point to portray gay and straight people in the play as strong believers. House also says he wanted to show Appalachia as a contemporary place. "This Is My Heart For You" will be performed Feb. 22-25 at 8p.m. and on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. in Berea College's Jelkyl Drama Center. For reservations, call 859-985-3300. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students. (Read more)

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