Lane playwright sheds light on acts of subtle homophobia


Michael Courier

Patrick, Gaw’s protagonist, is asked to prom by a boy in his class.

By Olivia Fergus-Brummer, Reporter

During the summer before her senior year, Alexis Gaw received a call while on a work break. Her play, which delves into a teen’s encounters of intolerance and love, had been chosen to be produced at the 32nd Annual Young Playwrights Festival. She immediately burst into tears.  

“It was so surreal,” Gaw said. “I couldn’t really believe they had actually picked my play to produce.”

Her play, “A Green Light,” was one of three chosen for the Young Playwrights Festival, which holds an annual competition for Chicago high school students to submit a one-act play to be performed on stage. Gaw’s play was performed at the 32nd Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Pegasus Theatre Chicago on Jan. 3-27.

Alexis Gaw, Div. 985, and the other winning playwrights worked with professional artists to refine and produce their plays. This year, the competition received over 500 submissions, according to Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s website.

“A Green Light” follows the story of a high schooler, Patrick, who comes out as gay to his best friend, Bea. But her response is less than supportive, and Patrick quickly picks up on her intolerance. Patrick is at odds: navigating how to ask his crush to prom while simultaneously attempting to validate his sexuality to Bea.

Gaw said her inspiration for the play came from recalling her numerous encounters with people who she discovered were subtly or even blatantly homophobic. She wrote and submitted the play for competition in her Drama 1 class taught by Ms. Allen during her junior year. Allen said that she was impressed by the initiative Gaw approached the assignment with.

“I remember really loving how she took this prevalent issue of homophobia but focused on the microaggressions and subtle homophobia… vs. radical homophobia of violence and mistreatment,” Allen said.

Although Gaw’s inspiration came from a place of anger, she decided against writing a tragic or solemn coming-out story. Instead, she wrote a contemporary romantic-comedy in an attempt to de-stigmatize homosexuality.

The play ends at prom with a heartfelt conversation between Patrick and Bea in which Bea vows to better support her friend’s sexuality. Finally, Patrick and his date, Nick, dance to a slow song.

“I don’t think that gay people get enough cheesy rom-coms,” Gaw said. “I just wanted my characters to be happy.”

Joan Mazzonelli, director of “A Green Light” and former managing Director at City Lit Theatre, appreciated that the play focused on subtle portrayals of intolerance. She said that the prevalence of homophobia made it a valuable play to see for both young people and adults.

“There’s no better place to experience [diverse opinions] than in a theatre, where you get to see different characters have different ideas,” Mazzonelli said. “It’s emotive.”

Gaw also sought to write a play that truthfully shows how Generation Z communicates. For example, Patrick talks with his friends primarily over text or FaceTime. Gaw said that depicting these virtual conversations made the face-to-face dialogue that took place especially powerful and heightened the intensity of Patrick and Bea’s confrontations.

“I wanted to establish that people say different things online than they might in person, and to also emphasize the importance of face to-face communication,” Gaw said.

Now in Creative Writing I, Gaw is currently writing another one-act play about a princess coerced into participating in a medieval bachelorette.

“It’s important to tell your stories,” Allen said. “If young voices can be heard and understood by older ones, then maybe we can bridge the gap between generations and make the world better.”

Michael Courier
Patrick and Bea, Gaw’s protagonists, share a dance in which Bea vows to better support Patrick.