Pope Francis isn’t the only one getting Catholics talking about LGBT people.
Last week a sold-out performance at Fordham University, a Catholic school in New York City, took the conversation to the stage. That event was a staged reading of “docudrama” Full of Grace, which was compiled from interviews with more than 30 LGBT Catholics, including priests and nuns as well as laypeople.
Producers Scott Barrow and Robert Choiniere say the show received an enthusiastic response from the crowd of 200. They’d like to see Full of Grace develop from a staged reading — in which actors embody their roles but may use scripts and there is little or no staging — into a more theatrical production.
The performance at Fordham, Barrow says, was a first step in that process, and it allowed them to start hearing feedback that will inform how they move forward “because this play is so much about community.”
The impetus for Full of Grace was a commission from the late bishop Joseph Sullivan, who approached Barrow and Choiniere, Choiniere explains, with the charge, “We need a new and unique way to address the lives of gay Catholics.”
Sullivan died in a car wreck before seeing his vision realized. Barrow and Choiniere decided to see it through, with the resulting piece dedicated to Sullivan’s memory.
The producers set out to showcase diverse voices in their interviews in order to show the variety of perspectives held by LGBT people from different age groups, for instance, or from different parts of the country. The interview subjects included lapsed Catholics who left the church because of its doctrine on LGBT people, priests facing issues of sexuality and celibacy, and same-sex parents who want their children to be baptized in the church.
One of the significant questions posed to interviewees, Barrow says, was why LGBT people remain Catholic despite being denied the rights of other church members.
“What holds them close to the church — that’s a very interesting conversation,” says Barrow, noting that many have the feeling that “I desperately need my church … I need the faith that I was raised in.”
Barrow says he hopes the production will challenge the belief systems of all audience members, and that each person who sees it leaves the theater with something to mull over. That’s at the heart, he says, of why Full of Grace was done as a theatrical production: It’s a way to take a topic too sensitive for some family dinner tables and force viewers to grapple with what they believe.