When I first saw the full line-up for the Mustard Seed Theatre season that my play would be a part of, I felt a bit like the odd girl out. There was “Human Terrain”, about the relationship between a U.S. Cultural Advisor and an Iraqi woman during the Iraq War, then “All Is Calm” about the Christmas truce of 1914 during WW1, followed by “White To Gray,” a tragic cross-cultural romance in the shadow of Pearl Harbor and the opening days of WW2. And then there was me and my very silly play about online dilettantes in gravity-defying dresses who talk funny. Cue the song from Sesame Street – “one of these things is not like the other…” But as the months have gone by, and I’ve had the chance to see each production, I’ve started to think my play may not be as out of place as I had expected it to be.
A glance at the poster and synopsis for An Invitation Out makes it fairly clear that I wrote it with modern technology on my mind, but may be a little less clear about what was in my heart. I conceived and wrote the first two drafts of the play at a pivotal time in my life, when I was finally coming to terms with being transgender and what that meant for my future while simultaneously wrestling with the legacy of my strict Pentecostal Christian upbringing. It was a period marked by long stretches of feeling like a stranger in a strange land pretty much everywhere I went. And in a way, the online/offline worlds of the play became a way for me to discuss the experience of venturing outside of a world-view you’ve grown comfortable with, and the rewards and consequences that come with such a step. A technological setting seemed a perfect way to examine it, too, because the internet has given us open access to all sorts of new conversations while also giving us the tools to be more closed off from other voices than ever before. Social media algorithms learn how to give us the news sources we like; the confines of post, comment, and tweet lengths make our arguments more brittle and two dimensional; and we can barricade ourselves away from views we don’t like with a simple click of the “unfriend” button. So you can imagine my relief when each of the plays before mine this season turned out to be about people reaching across cultural and ideological divides in order to connect with another human being. At its core, that’s what An Invitation Out is about too. And just like that, I didn’t feel like such a stranger after all. There were four of us, all from very different places, asking the same question. Although I’m pretty sure my version of the question still has the most jokes about blogging, greased ferrets, and sentient computer programs named Astrid. Which is probably for the best.