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Photo: Garry Williams, playwright

Editor's Note: On behalf of DaPoPo Theatre, independent theatre artist Lee-Anne Poole sat down with DaPoPo's Artistic Director Garry Williams to discuss his new play, Jesus Is a Faggot.

Lee-Anne Poole: What inspired Jesus is a Faggot?

Garry Williams: It’s funny talking about inspiration for a play about Jesus – the idea of God breathing life into things is so close. I suppose my own story was the inspiration for this play. I have had several significant relationships - friendships, love affairs – in High School and my adult life, with men identifying as Christians. I was fascinated by the idea of two men trying to navigate between their sexuality and their spirituality. I am a sensual person, but also a cerebral one who drifts towards introversion.

OR, When I was in University – is this getting too long? – I dated the woman running the Catalyst Society, the on-campus queer organization, but was also attending Christian Fellowship. Because my girlfriend was a lesbian – I know, labels become incredibly useless sometimes –, I was "outed" as a Christian, and told I shouldn't be dating this woman who was, in my eyes, performing a deeply Christian act by advocating for the persecuted, while the Christians were persecuting this woman performing great acts of compassion and kindness. This kind of reversal fascinated me. One of my atheist friends said, Wow, you don't look like a Christian. And I thought, Okay, something is wrong here.
LAP: Are you a Faggot?
GW: Yes. And I mean that in the sense that I am a gay man, a man who loves other men, and in the sense that I am exploring a little bit in this play, that I often feel like I am a weakling, a push-over, a wimp among bullies.
LAP: What is queer theatre to you?
GW: Everything. Seriously, though, I started making queer theatre by mistake, and came to realize that a lot of may art didn't "fit the mould", and that that was queer. To me, queer theatre is theatre that goes against the line, against conventions, sees the world at an angle, or draws attention to itself to celebrate its difference, sometimes defiant, sometimes gentle.
LAP: How long have you been working on this play? What have been some of the struggles?
GW: I wrote a first draft about a year ago, but the idea has been ghosting about for a few years. Just the other day I found a sketch from three years go, exploring many of the themes that are in this play. The biggest struggle has been finding time and a safe place to work on it, while trying to pay bills and run a theatre company and pay attention to my friends.
Another struggle was being able to stomach the initial confusion about the play, and the immediate response people had to the title. It's like you introduce your child to someone, and they say, You know you can't call him Sarah, right? And you think, Well, why not? And then they tell you, "You know that child of yours – I think your genes are probably all right, but I'm just not seeing it yet." It's tough.
LAP: You are also performing in Jesus is a Faggot, was that always the plan? How is the experience of performing your own work?
GW: It was always a possibility, but never a plan. It was really more an economic and practical decision. But I like it: it is also a strange kind of self-expression, bordering on therapy. I have enjoyed performing my own work in the past, although I find it difficult to resist ad libbing and changing things as I go. I find it difficult to say, as an actor, "How can I make this work?" without going back to the text as a writer and saying, "How can I make this work?"
LAP: What can audiences expect?
GW: It really depends on the audience, I guess. They can expect to be offended, uplifted; they can expect to see a love story; they can expect to laugh, to cry; I don't know… I think, perhaps, the play is not what you expect. To me that's a lot like God, or being queer. As soon as you try to make an image, or label it, you're mistaken.
LAP: What do you hope audience members take away from Jesus is a Faggot?
GW: A healthy sense of pride in who they are, and a heightened capacity for love. Empathy for people's struggles to bring together warring aspect of their psyche.
Editor's Note: Jesus Is a Faggot opens at Menz and Mollyz Bar on Gottingen Street in Halifax on Thursday, April 10 for three performances. For more information visit their Facebook page.