ACTING OUT Faith and sexuality converge
When the 17th annual Essential Theatre Festival opens on July 24, it does so with the new play “The Old Ship of Zion.” It’s the professional premiere of the work, written by Columbus, Georgia native Natalia Naman, and deals with gay issues set against a religious background. We caught up with Essential Theatre’s artistic director Peter Hardy, who is also directing the production, to talk about the play and this year’s festival.
Georgia Voice: Tell us about “The Old Ship of Zion.”
Hardy: It’s about a small, struggling AfricanAmerican church in Columbus, Georgia and its members. It presents a young man, Quincy, and his struggle. It’s presented in a sympathetic and positive way. It does show the experiences others have had with the church in a positive way; it doesn’t just say the church is bad.
Quincy is on his way towards accepting all parts of himself, his nature as a gay man as well as a man of faith. You don’t have to deny one or the other. I actually don’t know of any other plays that have explored that, at least with the African-American church. This is more of a thorny issue than with some churches.
I think it’s a wonderful play. We choose plays we do, not based on any content— we’re just looking for the best from our submissions. I think it’s warm and funny and has seven distinct characters.
What is the lead character going through?