John Belliston is a Computer Aide at Copperview Elementary School and blogs at fatkidapproved.blogspot.com and godsnshit.blogspot.com. He was invited to attend a rehearsal of ERIC(A) – these are his thoughts.
I saw a play the other night. I was invited to a rehearsal of ERIC(A) and frankly jumped at the chance. I’ve talked with playwright Matt Bennett on a number of different occasions about this particular piece and found myself encouraged by the morbid curiosity that is so integral to my character.
Before I go any further, indulge me an anecdote. When my mother was a younger teacher, and working with a make-up designer at a youth theatre conference, she ended up talking with him about homosexuality. “I just don’t get it.” were her words. And what the man said was something that would change my mothers perceptions and ultimately become a part of my personal ethos. He said, “Honey, if you got it, you’d be one.”
To clarify, I’m not saying that homosexuals and transsexuals are the same. I know they’re not. But like oranges and limes they can appear similar to the uninitiated but are distinctly different. Also delicious in margaritas.
But anyway, that’s been my mentality. I’ve never looked down on or discriminated against, at least I like to think I haven’t. But it’s not a phenomenon that I’ve ever been able to fully understand. Accepting your meat as it is (or as good as you can make it on your own) has always been a bit of an important value to me. Not that I think any less of anyone that don’t think that way, it just always tugged at my heart strings.
I am a genetic male and have always identified as male. But the question of what makes a “Man” is a deep and profound one. It’s one that is deep inside every man whether they were born with a penis or acquired one later. And I’m sure that it’s the same for women but that’s not something I have the same experience with.
And that was the thing that I found so immensely moving about this piece. I feel like I have so little in common with Eric, and yet I identified with him so deeply. His terror and heartache at falling in love for the first time tapped into the strange little boy I used to be. I was weird. Cause I thought too much, and said weird things. I looked at things in ways that other people didn’t. And I was terrified of girls. A pretty girl smiling at me would cause my whole mind to completely lock up. And I would feel that flood of questions surge through my brain. I would be the terrified little boy so scared of what was happening as my body automated the proper social responses. I didn’t think I would but I completely understood what Eric was going through although I had never experienced the exact details.
I have so little in common with the character, but the beauty of the words and glorious passion that Teresa Sanderson, Matt Bennett, and Jerry Rapier brought to this piece made it transcend the bonds of a play about gender identity. It became a play about what it means to be human.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This play has earned those three the highest praise I give to anyone.
They are Magnificent Bastards. Each one.
Matthew Ivan Bennett’s ERIC(A) receives its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre Company February 28-March 10, 2013. Performed by Teresa Sanderson and directed by Jerry Rapier. Click here for more information and tickets.