Here are the notes Lucia wrote for LEAVE OF ABSENCE...
Most of us would say we have done nothing to cause a child serious harm. We read about Amanda Todd or James Hubley and can’t imagine participating in such horrific persecution. How does this happen in our society? Why are children killing each other or themselves? I have washed my own hands clean all my life until I started asking: what have I not done to protect a child? How have I have been absent?
This play is about a small loving community who all, in their way, help raise a child. It’s full of humor, sensuality and mysticism. It contains some of my experiences as a fourteen-year-old girl, including some of my prayer poetry from that time. It was inspired originally by some of the experiences my friend, Rob Repicky, shared with me: being a teacher and priest in Toronto for over twenty years. But the play also goes to a place I’ve never gone before. It is my own leave: of absence.
When I was in junior high, a girl was bullied for being a “lesbian” (really, I think she was just poor and socially awkward) A gang of boys eventually pulled her clothes off at recess and shoved pencils up her to see if she was built like other girls. I felt sorry for her, but did nothing. We all knew who was involved and the boys got away with it. The girl eventually disappeared from school.
Every year children and young adults find me through Facebook looking for a person to talk to (social media can also do some good). Why me? My God, I don’t know. I’m entirely unqualified. But I am unafraid to ask questions about faith and sexuality in my work. They pour out their anguish over being bullied, excluded or shamed by others and by the voice in their own head. Many of them are from a religious community so the threat isn’t just emotional and physical but spiritual. Some of these kids and adults haven’t even been sexually active yet. Almost all of them confess they have tried to kill themselves or feel they may someday. We have conversations that last for years sometimes. Some of them lose their faith. Some of them become sexually inert, I’ve seen – for decades. Some of them are able to hold onto a faith while living and loving as someone other than straight.
When John Patrick Shanley was asked why he left the question of Father Flynn’s innocence open in his play, Doubt, he wrote:
“What I’m not interested in is writing polemics on one side of an issue or another. Doubt does not have to dismantle passion. It can be a passionate exercise.”
In Leave of Absence, I share with you five people. I share with you five different viewpoints. I share with you five different ways to love. Within this, I ask the question: where is the absence? How does a child slip through our hands? The answer to this question, only you know for your life. And in asking it, I do what I can to catch a child from falling.
Lucia Frangione, December 9, 2012