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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Queering the classics: Ginger Lazarus on her play 'Burning'

Ginger Lazarus
Burning began three years ago as a project with Queer Soup Theater. I had a little whim to write a lesbian version of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac that led to an evening of one-acts on the theme “queering the classics.” And that led to BPT’s involvement; a longer play; many, many drafts; and finally the realization of this wonderful production.

I have been in love with Cyrano for a long, long time. That said, I immediately forswore any loyalty to the original text and gave myself permission to reinvent it as needed. When I conceived Cy as my main character, she emerged razor-witted, self-reliant, and tough as the mountains. Which brought in her Army background, which raised the specter of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, still in effect at the time I began writing. And so the story tackles not only the enforced silence of queer service members but also the self-imposed silence of a person who feels unlovable. 

I didn’t need to do much research on the ache of wanting someone out of reach. The world of the military, on the other hand, was utterly foreign. In my epic investigation into this new world, two things struck me most deeply. First—the sheer horror and injustice endured by victims of sexual assault, DADT, and other poisonous byproducts of military policy and culture. No silence is more chilling than the power of an institution to make acts of rape, persecution, and even murder disappear at will. Second—the courage of those people in uniform who believe in their service and uphold its values (honor, integrity, respect among them), whether by risking their lives in combat or speaking the truth at great personal cost. I hope this play honors them. I hope that, with DADT repealed and the recent increased attention on sexual assault, our society and our military can live up to their example.

-- Ginger Lazarus, Playwright

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