Theatre Preview: ‘Voices From the Closet’ at SNAP / Shelterbelt

Bob Fischbach / Omaha World Herald

“Voices From the Closet,” an evening of eight monologues in which gay characters talk about the decision to hide or reveal an important part of who they are, had a long incubation period before its SNAP Productions opening tonight.

Omaha author Daena Schweiger was initially intrigued by 2010 headlines about a Rutgers student who committed suicide after being outed by a roommate on the Internet, and about whether gay athletes could ever be accepted in pro and college locker rooms.

Schweiger hadn’t written a full-length piece for the stage since “Love Is Strange,” a play about spousal abuse, had a successful run at the Shelterbelt in 2002. “I started three or four things and couldn’t get anywhere,” she said.

But in Fall 2012, SNAP had a show fall through for lack of a music director. Rather than have a dark theater, Schweiger offered to write the monologues for the November opening.
The show didn’t happen then, for production reasons, though Schweiger broke her dry spell as a writer and finished the monologues. Her research took her to interesting places, such as 18th century Britain when gay sex (like stealing sheep and forgery) was a death-penalty offense; and Russia, where the punishment was years of hard labor in Siberia.

SNAP kept “Voices From the Closet” on its production schedule, and Schweiger has since revisited the monologues for some rewriting and updating.

Four directors — Todd Brooks, Echelle Childers, Michele Phillips and Michal Simpson — are helming two monologues each. Schweiger said she’s enjoyed their different approaches to the material. Some incorporated other actors into the pieces, at least visually if not vocally. Some treated the monologues as inner dialogue, talking to oneself or journaling. Some had the character directly address the audience or someone unseen.

The eight characters include a British woman, a Russian man and six Americans. Each of the Americans comes from a different decade over the past century.

Schweiger said the recent NFL draft, new laws in Nigeria and the Sochi Olympics indicate the topic’s relevance remains strong.

“These monologues aren’t an answer,” she said. “These are eight voices out of millions. It makes you wonder how far we’ve progressed — or not progressed.”

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