UM Theater Celebrates Resilience in the Queer Community with “Verbatim” | Arts + Culture

Light, camera, action! Students rehearse their performance of “Verbatim: Celebrating Resilience” on October 11. The last performance will take place at the ZACC on October 17th.

Mark Plonsky, 48, stood in front of his cast of 12 during a rehearsal at the University’s Masquer Theater, wearing a woolen beanie and camouflage-patterned cargo pants. There was less than a week left before the big show of the program, and the members still had not decided on the order of the second act.

“Only the path to mediocrity goes smoothly! Plonsky cried, a fist raised in the air.

This Sunday, October 17 at 6 pm, the University of Montana School of Drama and Dance will present their current play, titled “Verbatim: Celebrating Resilience” at the Zootown Arts Community Center. The show will be free, but donations are encouraged.

The play will be told in two acts. The first was composed by Gregory Hinton from Public debate by the Missoula City Council on the 2010 non-discrimination ordinance, in particular on the inclusion or not of members of the LGBTQIA + community.

The second act was created by the cast of “Verbatim” and is based on dozens of interviews they conducted with people who testified at the original hearing and transcripts of the Restoration Act. religious freedom, promulgated last April in Helena. This bill, which allows Montana residents to challenge legislation that goes against their religious beliefs, has been criticized by many LGBTQIA + activists who said it would protect people who discriminate against gay people on religious grounds.

The play is a double effort between the drama school and the local youth group EmpowerMT, which approached Plonsky about the project.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved in community outreach, as it’s a very important part of the theater,” Plonsky said. “We want to reach out and create productive relationships with our community because we belong to them. We belong to the community we serve.

Plonsky is conducting “Verbatim” with assistant director Michael Beverly. Beverly first came to college as a visiting professor, but ended up staying there as an assistant. He teaches a handful of acting classes, including stage combat and design, but is especially proud to revive the Social Justice Drama class. Several cast members credit this class as the reason they auditioned for the show.

Makay Loran, a senior working on her BFA in theater, is one such student.

“[The] The Theater for Social Justice class opened my eyes, ”she said. “It really motivated me to see how powerful and important art in general can be… I discovered that it is important to be part of the theater that can make a difference or have an impact.”


Mark Plonsky addresses members of the UM School of Theater and Dance during a group rehearsal.

Most of the cast agree that “Verbatim” had a rather unconventional rehearsal process, given that they themselves constructed the series’ interviews into a narrative.

“It was largely confusing at first,” said Sara Kutz-Yeager, a junior in the acting program. “We didn’t really know what we were doing. The directors even said they didn’t really know what they were doing. But we got it. “

The guiding force of the company has been the power behind the stories it tells and the theme of resilience, especially in the face of Montana’s Restoration of Religious Freedom Act.

“It’s so important to understand the harm the RFRA could cause,” Loran said. “Even being part of the LGBT community, I did not realize the harm this could cause… It is important that the community as a whole realizes the impact that legislation could have on LGBT communities.

“Much of my family, including myself, is gay,” Kutz-Yeager said. “A lot of my close friends are gay, so I think it’s important to tell stories of gay people in Missoula… Sometimes Missoula isn’t as sure as you think. You think it’s that liberal pocket of safe space in Montana, but as we saw last week with Rob Smith’s blog, it doesn’t always… that’s why it’s important to continue to raise the issues of minority communities.

According to Plonsky, this is the idea at the heart of “Verbatim”.

“One of the main goals I aspire to is to lend time and space on stage …” I ask the actors not to play just anyone, not just to play these characters, but rather to let their voices speak in the service of the stories of these people. “

The topics explored in the play are just a handful of a wide range of stories and situations within the queer community.

“It’s not meant to sound intimidating,” Plonsky said, “but rather liberating and encouraging. There are so many situations that call for redress or at least greater understanding. You can’t handle them all, so start there. where you can and with the story speaking to you and accepting that you can be a part of a change that will happen somewhere down the line.

“We definitely have some hopeful stories in our article,” Loran said. “Hope is always good.”

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