In season full of LGBT fare, venue tells true tale of gender, courage and love in its season-opening play
By Matthew Holley
Get ready, LGBT Atlanta. This month, Theatrical Outfit embraces a multifaceted, intricate journey of discovery in the Southeast premiere of Boy.
The play, a recent Off-Broadway hit by Anna Ziegler, was inspired by one man’s true story of gender reassignment that hearkens and exposes issues currently playing out on America’s public stage. The real-life journey was documented by Oprah and BBC, with further details explained in the best-selling biography, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl, by John Colapinto.
Set in the years 1968-1990, Boy begins when a celebrated doctor influences parents of a male infant to raise their son as a girl after an accident to the child’s genitals. Having his gender picked for him, years later, the penalties and harsh certainties of that choice unfold with deep consequences surrounding identity and self worth.
The play does not shy away from drama, but it’s written with humor and sweet moments as well that create an emotional roller coaster ride. The story covers big ground as the main character learns to love himself and others, all the while rediscovering who he truly is.
Boy features Tom Key, Theatrical Outfit’s Artistic Director and Clifton Guterman, its Associate Artistic Director, with direction by Melissa Foulger. It runs September 28 – October 15. In anticipation of a particularly LGBT-inclusive season at the venue, Goliath Atlanta speaks to Guterman, who takes on the starring role, about the Boy’s compelling journey.
What made you decide to take on Boy?
It’s the role of a lifetime. I followed the New York production very closely, then I got a hold of the script. We did it last January in a public reading here at the theater as part of a festival. We got a great deal of positive feedback about the script, I worked on it, I played the role in the reading.
Our artistic director was able to watch it, and together we just decided that it was something we really wanted to do at this time in 2017, with a great deal of discussion about gender identity and loving who you feel on the inside you were always meant to love, and being who you feel on the inside.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
The big question that the show asks is, Does nature or nurture determine who and how we love? Are we inherently one thing or are we shaped by our society around us? Can people really be altered into being someone else?
There’s a lot of debate about that, but the real question I think is sort of listening to our children and listening to our inner self and letting young people be who they really, really feel that they are.
Does the play ultimately explain the complex true story?
This particular case was very important in terms of its failure in a way in which they were convinced that they should raise the child as a girl. They tried for a long time, and it didn’t work out.
Now, the general practice in the medical community rarely reassigns gender to a child who’s had trauma or born intersex or damaged in some way. They wait until puberty or until the child is able to make the decision and have free will and be a part of that choice. I think the audience will identify with that.