This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Play about sexuality tours Canadian churches

Photo: Ellen Reesor as Sam Martin and Kimberlee Walker Alex Fast. Photo provided.

The Mennonite Church in Canada is at a crossroads. For the last six years, the national church has committed itself to an interactive, countrywide process entitled “Being a Faithful Church.” The goal: to decide whether or not they will follow the United Church’s lead in welcoming and affirming the Queer community, not only in their congregations, but in leadership roles as well.

It is this the conflict-filled backdrop that has inspired playwright Johnny Wideman to write This Will Lead to Dancing, a site-responsive, theater piece set to tour Mennonite churches across Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan this fall.

The play opened in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, Sept. 17.

The title of the piece parodies the old Mennonite adage “Don’t have sex standing up, it might lead to dancing,” which reflects the awkward relationship between sexuality and spirituality embodied in the Mennonite faith.

The story of the play follows two teenagers, Sam and Alex, who are sick and tired: they’re tired of their church’s exclusive stance on homosexuality, and sick due to a week-long hunger strike to protest it. But when word finally gets out, it becomes clear that their cause has struck a chord in their small Mennonite community.

Crowds gather outside their church, CBC news crews swarm to follow the story, and Sam is visited by the ghost of Menno Simons who claims he has been sent to help her. Awaiting their church’s decision, Sam and Alex must decide whether sticking up for a community who has been spiritually starved is worth the risk of physically starving themselves.

“This production is sure to spark conversation,” says Johnny Wideman, playwright and Theatre of the Beat Artistic director. “But there is something naturally empathetic and compassionate about live theater. It’s an extremely vulnerable thing which I believe has the power to disarm.”

Wideman’s main research was conducted through interviews with both open and closeted Mennonites within the Queer community. He hopes the play will spark conversation amidst controversy and work towards opening perspectives regarding LGBTQ inclusion.

Director Erin Brandenburg says, “The strength of this piece is that it creates space by asking the audience to see a familiar location and argument from a different perspective. This slight shift of the familiar, this change of perspective creates a rupture in entrenched ideas and makes room for new ideas and attitudes to grow.”

So far handfuls of churches across Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have agreed to host this site-responsive production and others have refused.

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