Louisville has embraced my life and memories in a way I never would have imagined 20 years ago when I was a young teenager growing up here. This past weekend I caught the last performance of Girlfriend at Actors Theatre, a charming musical that looks at the summer of first love for…two high school boys! A show that has been embraced by the community in such a positive way that it took me a little by surprise. While Girlfriend took me back to my own experience of young first love, what I actually walked away with was a sense of community. What I loved most about Girlfriend was that while it tells a love story between two gay men, it’s so universal. Anyone can, and does, relate to these feelings of awakening. The theatre was filled with such a variety of people on that last day and at the end they all jumped to their feet, a thing of beauty for a guy who grew up thinking he was alone here.
On my drive home I started thinking about how many local productions we have had, or will be seeing soon, that deal with LGBTQ issues. Girlfriend. Louisville Repertory Company’s Dog Sees God, which dealt with the darker side of the gay high school experience. Auctioning The Ainsleys, a play that Theatre  will produce later this year. Rent over at the Jewish Community Center. Anything Pandora and surely so many more that I wasn’t able to catch. Louisville is experiencing a great moment in its local theatre scene. Many young groups are coming together and doing a lot of really interesting work while some of the old guard like Actors Theatre, under the new direction of Les Waters, are blowing off the cobwebs and taking chances on modern, less explored pieces. Luckily, many of these projects cast a wide net in their examination of different social experiences.
The more Louisville theatre companies embrace minority culture and their experiences the more we will grow as a city and community as a whole. I hope in the future we see more productions like Girlfriend. More shows that don’t showcase the gay community in stereotypes, but show that our experiences in love and life and death are not specific to us but representative of the human experience. As long as the creative community takes this approach towards homosexuality, African-Americans, women and so many other groups – we can look forward to learning so much about each other. And ourselves.
Photo courtesy of Actors Theatre of Louisville.