Students came together to break the silence on GLBTQ issues at the University of Richmond by recounting true stories of students, faculty and alumni who questioned their sexuality or lived as members of the GLBTQ community during the Live Homosexual Acts at the Pier Sunday night.
Sophomore Jon Henry, president of the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity (SASD), told the 100 people in attendance that he hoped the collection of stories and monologues would help promote more discussion about GLBTQ — Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning — issues on campus.
The performance opened with a reading of the "Letter from the Closet," an anonymous letter submitted to The Collegian in January 2009 by a member of the GLBTQ community who had not yet come out.
Henry said the letter and its author had prompted discussion about GLBTQ issues, and that the Live Homosexual Acts intended to further that dialogue.
"Tonight we gather to acknowledge the power of communication," Henry said. "We hope to break the silence like this brave individual."
Richmond students, faculty, staff and alumni of different sexual identities submitted the stories, which were performed by a group of 16 students. The events in the stories occurred either during their time at the university or some time after.
"We wanted to capture all the voices of our community, no matter how queer, rich, white, black, Asian, ethnic, athletic, Greek, poor, etc.," Henry said.
In one story, a performer portrayed a 41-year-old married husband and father who realized he was gay and founded an organization to support gay men with children from heterosexual marriages.
"Often, guys like me, when they start to realize they really are gay and have no one to turn to, think they are the only one and are terrified of losing their children," the performer said. "In many cases they are torn because they really do love their wives."
In another story, a different performer portrayed a 13-year-old boy who came out to his mother, causing their relationship to deteriorate. But the boy said he had become a better person because of his coming out.
"I have gone through so much already, so I believe I can handle anything," the performer said. "The world is a stage, and when I stepped out onto the stage I felt that all eyes were on me, and I must say I loved the feeling.
"I embraced all the stares from the audience and became the self-assured, confident person I am today."
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The performers presented approximately 20 different monologues.
Henry said that the idea for the show was adapted from a similar event at the University of Virginia. That event featured stories from people all across Virginia, but Henry said SASD wanted to bring the event closer to home and feature stories from just the university community. He said the group had been collecting stories anonymously online for the last two semesters.
A group of 16 students dressed in black performed the monologues. The stage was bare except for chairs for the performers and two podiums for the speakers. Behind the performers, a rainbow flag was taped to the wall.
The company of students included just a few SASD members, allowing other interested students the opportunity to perform and support SASD and the GLBTQ community. Henry said tryouts had been held earlier during the week, and the entire company had had just two rehearsals before the performance. Sunday night's show was the performers' first full run.
Henry said he was excited that the event brought in such a large crowd that enjoyed the performance.
"That was pretty shocking for something extremely low-budget, done for the first time with no name behind it," Henry said. "I'm still sort of processing, but everyone seems to be having a fun time."
Among those in the audience was sophomore Travis Henschen, who said he attended because he had friends in the group and wanted to support them, and also because he wanted to hear all of the stories.
Some alumni also returned to watch the performance. Carlos Siekavizza-Robles, Richmond College '08, came back to support the group and said he was impressed with the performance and with SASD's role in prompting more discussion about GLBTQ issues on campus.
"They're reaching beyond normal queer-supportive people," Siekavizza-Robles said. "They're doing what needs to done, finally reaching the community. It is beautiful, and I'm proud of them."
In the future, Henry said SASD hoped to perform annually if it received new stories from the campus community.
In the meantime, Henry ended the performance by asking the audience to remember the stories as well as their authors.
"These were the voices of your peers, your teachers, your friends, your cleaners, your food [preparation] staff and maybe even you," Henry said. "These stories embody the struggle in all society, in all people and from every voice.
"We all want to live, be happy, be loved, be heard and be felt."
Contact staff writer Stephen O'Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org
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