The booming bedroom community outside a large Canadian city is blown apart when fifteen-year-old Blake challenges long-held views of spirituality and sexuality. A student at the local Catholic high school, Blake confides in her best friend, Tracy, that she feels sexually attracted to her. At first encouraged and then rebuffed, Blake is eventually betrayed. Then, increasingly at risk among her peers, Blake finds the watchful and strict eyes of her Catholic school are no protection.
Vulnerable to collectivized hatred, she remains unprotected by the adults who guard her freedom – her mother, the school principal, the local priest – all respond in different ways, some liberally supporting her emerging sexuality; others quite conservatively vilifying her as a deviant, outside the church and outside the community. Ultimately, they do not act to protect her, and in their inaction, they are absent, truly unable to help. The audience is left with the question: Like these characters, what have we left undone? What ethics surround the absence of acting in response to another’s need?
At the centre of this searing drama of bigotry and transcendence is the brutal dehumanization of the other – of both the bully and the victim. The outcome challenges the Roman Catholic church’s response to the same-sex marriage rulings in Canada. Leave of Absence won the ACTivist theatre Amnesty International Playwright contest in 2011.
Cast of 3 women and 2 men.
Award-winning playwright and actor Lucia Frangione has emerged from Canada’s independent theatre scene to take her place as an important, young post-feminist voice on the lives of women in the post-modern world, boldly questioning the institutions of family, religion, and sexual iconography. Her accessible and entertaining plays persist in furthering an intelligent female voice in the theatre, utilizing satire as a tool for critical thought, and tackling complex themes with wit and courage.
She is the recipient of the 2006 and 1998 Gordon Armstrong Playwright Awards and won the Sydney Risk playwright award for Cariboo Magi in 2001. Espresso was nominated for seven Jessie awards, toured Western Canada in 2004, and was translated into Polish and performed for a year at Teatr Jeleniogorski in 2007. Lucia's twenty plays have been produced by theaters such as the Belfry Theatre, the Arts Club Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Lambs Players San Diego, Ruby Slippers, Solo Collective, Chemainus Theatre, and Prairie Theatre Exchange.
“One of our most consistently interesting playwrights: intellectually and theologically sophisticated with a strong dose of eroticism and a nice sense of humour.”
– Jerry Wasserman, Vancouverplays.com
“The connection between sexuality and spirituality is … at the heart of Lucia Frangione’s Leave of Absence, and it is manifested especially in the lesbian awakening of the fifteen-year-old central character, Blake. Sister Margaret teaches her students about the female Christian mystics and recites their ‘lusty’ poems about longing for union with their saviour. Margaret’s appreciation for the feminine divine intermingles with Blake’s desire for her best friend. The result is tragic … as Blake is bullied, assaulted … Leave of Absence ends with a magical effect, as the air fills with singing that the playwright describes as ‘mystical’ and ‘miraculous.’ … [the key, for the audience, seems to be] to find the connection between the physical and the metaphysical, to embody a spiritual experience.”
– Canadian Literature
“When the issue of hostility towards gays around the world is viewed along- side the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality … which state that being gay is an anomaly and intrinsically disordered, the problem is quite large … Socially aware and engaged theatre that strives to make a difference … can create a dialogue for change.”
– Mark Robins, GayVancouver.net
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