Of hate crimes and coming out and art

by Kristina Latino

On September 12, 2010, an undergraduate student at Harvard was attacked in a hate crime. His "offense"? Being gay. This instance, however, and others like it, prompt students to consider what kind of a community we live in. For some, these reflections are silent. For others, they emerge in creative ways.

For Felix Cook ‘13, who was a sophomore at the time, the event was a trigger for an important theatrical experience. He wondered how this attack would affect people in Cambridge and thus began writing a play that speaks to the experiences of being young and gay in this generation, simultaneously so accepting and so complicated. His play Lone Gay Male focuses on the life of a gay protagonist. Ultimately, says Cook, it is "a play about being young, about growing up, about accepting difference and the knowledge that sometimes things go wrong in life and things are unpredictable."

Cook wrote the play over the summer, beginning with the facts of this 2010 crime and then drawing on personal experience, friends’ anecdotes and articles he had read to develop the story organically. One thing that makes the play so compelling is that it tells a story we’re all familiar with using a new narrative.

"The process of coming out is in some ways standardized," says Cook. "The steps one takes, the reactions, the pitfalls and triumphs are often similar between people, and yet at the same time everyone has their own narrative and experience."

The play endeavors to represent a community without generalizing and to connect the audience through a common experience. Lone Gay Male does more than just tell a coming-of-age story. It takes ownership of a horrible act and repurposes it into something hopeful. As LGBT teens are often told, "it gets better." Cook's play pounds that idea home with a punch, empowering the audience and creating a ripple effect of positivity from an awful event. The play reminds the audience that this community is not powerless in the face of hate crime. We have the power to make something good out of something hurtful, and Lone Gay Male does just that.

Lone Gay Male plays Oct.18- 20 in the Loeb Ex. A special reading of Unnatural Acts, a play about Harvard’s investigation and expulsion of seven undergraduate students for involvement with homosexual acts in 1920, will take place 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Farkas Hall.