Not Just A Stage: Youth Against Censorship

On Monday, June 14th, CLAGS is co-sponsoring, along with several other community organizations, Not just a Stage: Youth Against Censorship at the Public Theater in Manhattan. The evening will feature a reading of the award-winning, but banned play, “Love Versus the Paperback Novel/’ written by 1 7 year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native, Samantha Cellar. Performers will include many of the theatre’s brightest lights, including Mary-Louise Parker, Lisa Kron, Lea Delaria, Terrence McNally, Craig Lucas, the Five Lesbian Brothers, Brian Freeman, Kathleen Chalfant, Carmelita Tropicana, and many others. All proceeds from the event will benefit the vital but underfunded work of Time Out Youth and the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, both of which work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Cellar’s “Love Versus the Paperback Novel” concerns two women who meet and subsequently fall in love. The play received a major award in a playwriting competition sponsored by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Regrettably, homophobia reared its ugly head, and the competition organizers banned production of the play, claiming in the Associated Press that the “discussion of sexual orientation was not appropriate for the program’s middle and high school audiences.” Not only was Cellar’s play not produced (an honor associated with the award), but she did not receive the dramaturgical assistance that the other winners in the competition received. Cellar is finally getting what she was promised, though. The organizers of Not just a Stage were able to score her some wonderful help-from Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright, Paula Vogel. According to Vogel, who is also a professor of playwriting at Brown University, “There is a maturity and an emotional depth that leaps off the page. She has a gift that should be nurtured and a future that should be cherished.” Indeed, the common response from theatre professionals who encounter Cellar’s voice on the page is “did a seventeen-year-old really write this?” jo Bonney, whose recent production of Diana Son’s Stop Kiss won raves, will direct. Mary-Louise Parker, of Pulitzer Prizewinning play, How I Learned to Drive and Fried Green Tomatoes, and Lisa Kron, who is currently appearing in her one-person play, 2.5 Minute Ride, will star. Also scheduled for the evening are readings of letters by lgbtq youth and from artists who have faced censorship themselves, including playwright Tony Kushner, novelist Dorothy Allison, and filmmaker Cheryl Dunye. Playwright Terrence McNally will also speak. In addition to CLAGS, the list of those organizing the benefit include notable artists such as Craig Lucas, jackie Woodson, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Christopher Durang, as well as organizations like NGLTF, 16 ACLU, National Coalition Against Censorship, the Association of Theatre in Higher Education, and many others. The purpose of Not just a Stage is multiple: First of all, the event will celebrate Cellar’s accomplishment as a playwright. Second, it will send a clear message that the homophobic policies that are standard policy in public schools across the country are unacceptable. And finally, it will place the Charlotte incident within a larger context of censorship. All monies raised from the event will go to Time Out Youth and NYAC organizations that perform literally life-saving work without visible means of financial support. Time Out Youth is a community-based non-profit organization in Charlotte, North Carolina. Its mission is to create a strong, visible organization to end the isolation of lgbtq; and to provide them with support, affirmation, education and role models. Time Out Youth provides valuable services to youth in politically and religiously conservative North Carolina. The National Youth Advocacy Coalition, based in Washington, DC, is the only national organization focused solely on advocacy, information, and education addressing the broad range of issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. NYAC is a unique collaboration of national and community-based member organizations working to end discrimination against lgbtq youth and to ensure their physical and emotional well-being. NYAC’s Bridges Project, the national clearinghouse on lgbtq youth, provides information, resources, and assistance to lgbtq youth and their adult allies nationwide. NYAC supports youth activists and the agencies that serve them, including Time Out Youth. Tickets for Not just a Stage are expected to go briskly and will not be available for purchase at the Public Theatre box office. To receive information on ticket ordering, call NYAC at (202) 319-7596, ext. 15. Contributions for the event, including sponsorship, may be made payable to “National Youth Advocacy Coalition” with “Youth Against Censorship” written in the memo line. Send tax-deductible donations to: NYAC; 1711 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Suite 206; Washington, DC 20009. For more information on becoming a supporter, please call Rea Carey, Executive Director, (202) 319-7596, ext. 15.

Holly Hughes
Not just a Stage Organizer