Megan Pedersen Gutierrez wrote this response to Plan-B’s BORDERLANDS in 2011. It was originally published on her website A Theatre Lover on April 3, 2011 but was lost in a site crash. She republishes it here today as part of Give OUT Day.
It’s not often that I write a full entry for a show. However, BORDERLANDS really impacted me today and I wanted to explore some of those emotions. Not a review as much as a reflection. Borderlands is currently running at Plan-B Theatre.
I had high expectations for this show and I can say that this is the best production I have seen with Plan-B Theatre Company and the best show I have seen this year. Perhaps because it hit so close to home (LDS and gay themes) and perhaps because it was just that good!
BORDERLANDS is written by a current BYU professor and self-proclaimed “orthodox” Mormon. It’s a show about honesty and being human. It opens with Dave, a used car salesman who just wants to be honest for once and tells Gail (a woman shopping for a car) not to buy any cars on his lot because they’re all junk. And thus, the story is set in motion.
Dave has broken the pattern of saying what people expect him to say and thus, the rest of the show is honest reflections on what the characters are really feeling.
I loved this show for its simplicity. There is no overwrought dialogue and posturing to be profound. It is simple, to the point and honest. I could ramble on about the technical aspects that were done well – like the scene changes as Gail changed costumes, or the music, or the staging in general. I could also go on about the acting – as it was superb on all counts.
When I write about a show, I try to remain removed and write as a theater patron, rather than a journal type entry…if that make sense. But with this, I am going to share what I am feeling.
I grew up LDS (Mormon) and was very devout in my youth. I attended all meetings, held leadership positions within The Church during my teenage years, graduated seminary with straight A’s and truly loved the Gospel. Long story short, fast forward 15 years and I have had my records removed and am happily married to a woman.
The journey here has been long and, I’m sad to say, I don’t think that journey has ended. I still hold a lot of anger toward The Church. There are many complicated reasons that I do, none of which make me feel any better about the situation. I’m not an angry person and I don’t like feelings of negativity but this is one area I still struggle with. In it’s very simplest sense, The Church is at war within me. On one side, there are beautiful teachings, amazing people, fond memories and my family – who still love The Church. On the other side, there is Prop 8, callous remarks towards gay youth and statistics that are coming out of Utah like this:
• Every 11 days a Utah teen commits suicide
• Utah leads the nation in suicide among men 15-24
• Utah has the 11th highest overall suicide rate in the nation
• Suicide is the #1 cause of death among Utah teens
Now, I’m not saying The Church is to blame. However, with such a dominant culture and such horrible statistics – the teachings could have an impact – I know they did on me. I say all this not to get in a debate about what role The Church plays in any of this – rather to show you how conflicted it is in my head. Because for me (and I ONLY speak for myself), it is hard to reconcile something that I find so incredibly beautiful and incredibly dangerous in the same breath.
Today, for the first time in 10 years, during BORDERLANDS, my anger was suspended – momentarily. Literally, for only a second. One simple word pierced through the anger, resentment, confusion, pain, longing and nostalgia. I was enjoying the show, a truly great work indeed, and I was completely wrapped up in this story of honesty and being human but I wasn’t overly emotional. Now, I am not going to spoil the show, but at one moment one specific character says the word “blessing.”
My breath caught and my world turned upside down. And with that word, my two contradicting worlds were able to exist in the same moment. The tears came freely after that, not just one or two but shoulder-wracking, can’t-see, nose-sniffling, good old-fashioned crying. I even repeated this reaction when I called my (still LDS) brother after the show to share with him my experience.
Where do I go from here? I don’t know. I‘ve been angry for so long. I try not to share that anger because I know it is cancerous and divisive. I know that it will only harm others so I contain it within. Through the wonderful work of all those involved in Borderlands, I feel a little less angry today and a little more at peace. I bought a copy of the script (can be found in the LDS publication Sunstone – March 2011 issue) and plan on rereading it often.
My hope is that one day – we can all have a happy ending. But for now, “It’s okay, that’s just how things are.” I write, with teary eyes again.