Young Queer playwright tackles backwards notions from his hometown

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by Ben Gierhart
he/him
ben@queerkentucky.com

When one thinks about plays, they often think about full-length pieces. These plays often clock in at just around 90 minutes, which is a substantial enough amount of time to deter some audiences. What may be a welcome meditation on a theme or issue for some, may cause another to balk. The task is also daunting for playwrights, especially those new to the craft. That’s why for many writers, a ten-minute play festival – such as “Spring Shorts: Seven Plays by Seven Playwrights” currently running at the University of Louisville – is a fantastic way to find some sea legs.

Beau Howard, a student at UofL, and his play, “The Morning After,” are featured in the series of shorts. His play tells the story of two gay men in the 60s named Paul and Harold. In particular, the piece offers a snapshot of their life together, focusing on their arguments about how to proceed with the future of their relationship in a world that is plagued by homophobia. These arguments are also colored by the very real fear of prosecution that was possible at the time in which the play is set.

“Harold is very concerned about losing his social circle and especially with how his family will react,” says Howard. “There’s also the stigma that comes with homophobia, the staring eyes, the judgments from family, the being disowned by family, being abandoned by friends, losing jobs… I wanted to point out how backwards homophobia is because my play takes place in the 1960s, yet these fears still exist today, especially in my hometown.”

These are issues that hit close to home for Howard who grew up in Owensboro and identifies as a gay trans man. Many areas of the state have made progress when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, but sadly, Howard’s home is not one of them. “We tried to pass a fairness ordinance, and it didn’t pass… It was really just to protect people’s jobs and housing. So I think that speaks volumes as to what people in Owensboro think about [queer] people,” reflects Howard.

Sadly, this upbringing still affects Howard even as a university student away from home. Regarding this particular opportunity, Howard says he didn’t feel safe or comfortable including his face in the program or any promotional material: “Yeah, I was worried that my parents would see my face next to the name Beau Howard instead of my dead name and put one and two together. I obviously don’t know for sure how they would react, but I know it won’t be positive. So I’m pretty much kind of confined to the closet until I get a more stable income separate from my parents and family. So yeah, I was kind of sad because this is one of the proudest moments of my life. This is the first time that I really feel talented and feel like people are seeing my talent. And my family, the people I’m closest to, couldn’t be there.”

Howard has ideas beyond this play, one being an interesting full-length piece surrounding the concept of how when LGBTQ+ figures of history are transformed into messianic idols, they lose their humanity. He also says that he was so grateful for the process of getting feedback and the opportunity for revision of his work, something new to a kid from Owensboro whose writing had often been a solitary refuge. Even more importantly, seeing his words transformed into something alive and tangible seems to be a formative experience in the making for him: “The very first time I saw the set and I saw the costumes, my entire body just went giddy because it was like my vision brought to life, and it was so much better than I ever imagined.”

The University of Louisville’s “Spring Shorts” series is currently running and continues on April 14, 15, 16 at 7:30 p.m. To support Howard as well as the other playwrights and theater artists involved, please visit https://louisville.edu/theatrearts/productions.

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