ACT­ING OUT Faith and sex­u­al­ity con­verge

GA Voice - - LGBT Atlanta - By JIM FARMER

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?

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