PHOEBE KALLAHER/SAGAMORE STAFF
From a boy named Jeremy with green skin to a reality show called Twink Tank to a new Duolingo course to help users navigate the “gay language,” the Brookline Educational Theater Company (BETCo) created a wonderfully diverse collection of characters and settings.
BETCo’s annual Day of Dialogue performance took place on Monday, April 27 at 3:30 p.m. Eight scenes were presented live through a Zoom meeting, which over 70 people attended. The BETCo adapted skillfully to the digital platform, and all the scenes were simultaneously entertaining and informative.
The show opened with an enthusiastic CEO, Beth (junior Tamar Paserman), announcing that she wants to “get progressive.” However, when the company’s artist (junior Phoebe Kallaher) presents her design for a gay character, Beth says she wants the gay characters to adhere to the stereotypes of “rainbow-dyed hair and clothes of the opposite gender.” And, when the screenwriter (senior Dee-nah Wattana) suggests a female love interest for a princess, Beth instead argues that it would be a bad business decision. The scene addressed how many authors, media corporations, and businesses want to be labeled as progressive, but shy away from legitimate LGBTQ+ representation for fear of alienating their cisgender and heterosexual audiences.
In the following scene, high school student Julie (junior Maya van Overbeeke Costello) is meeting with her guidance counselor (senior Sylvia O’Shea). Julie explains how she visited her school’s identity fair and picked up a “lesbian pamphlet,” but couldn’t find anything that truly spoke to her. Her counselor encouraged her to look for a match identity and to refer to her IAT (Identity Aptitude Test) scores to help find the right fit. By comparing a teenager’s search for her identity to the college application process, BETCo emphasized that it can frequently be confusing and difficult for one to find the label that describes them best.
“The Geico Ad” centered around Jeremy (junior Ren Klein), a teenager who has green, reptile-like skin. However, his mother (Paserman) cannot see his condition. When mother and son are watching television together, a Geico advertisement appears. Jeremy’s mother calls the ad “disgusting” and a “bad influence.”
Jeremy insists that the ad hasn’t changed him, but his mother believes that Jeremy has been turned into a monster. She expresses disbelief that the show run such an advertisement: “Don’t they know American Idol is a family show?” she asks furiously. Klein and Paserman satirized the irrational beliefs of parents who view all LGBTQ+ content as inappropriate. Indeed, when Paserman’s character finally sees Jeremy’s true nature, she destroys the TV and adamantly refuses to accept her son’s identity.
“The FGY1 Gene” featured potential adoptive parents Kathy (O’Shea) and Dan (junior Alp Canbulat) who are excited about adopting a baby boy, Eli. The adoption agent (senior Barbara Pires) announces that, with the advent of advanced genetic testing, the agency has determined that Eli carries the FGY1 Gene, or the “gay gene.” Kathy and Dan are furious that they had “no time to prepare” for this news. They become hesitant about whether or not they still want to adopt Eli. The scene concludes when the couple elects to deliberate on their future plans.
In the final scene, “Binaries in Black,” a pair of researchers are working around the clock to discover the “true theory of gender.” After receiving nothing but dead-end clues, Jaxson (senior Clay Baker-Lerner) and Krystal (junior Eve Jones) conclude that perhaps there is no secret: gender has never existed at all. The minute the researchers reach this conclusion, two secret agents (senior Ben Kiel and junior Daniel McCullough) arrive to erase their memories. They believe that if the researchers’ findings were revealed to the public, society would be destroyed. The closing scene emphasized how many institutions will go far to protect traditional perceptions of gender identity, even when such views can be outdated and discriminatory.
The BETCo show demonstrated the importance of LGBTQ+ representation and of human compassion and understanding. The cast operated in an untraditional and unprecedented format—they could not hear the audience’s reactions, and there were no stage effects or physical interaction. Audience members kept their cameras and microphones off; the actors spoke their individual lines at home, with an announcer providing the stage directions. Nevertheless, the actors were able to present cohesive, humorous and well-written scenes that highlighted various hardships that the LGBTQ+ community has endured.