Student production encourages laughter to break silence

posted in: Opinion | 0

This week Thursday, Friday and Saturday, CGE’s production of Jeffrey, a gay love story set in ’90s Manhattan hits Tom Miles Theatre with a glittery bang. The show is amazing—and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. It’s relevant to this article. But at the same time, I encourage you to check it out.

Why? Because it’s funny. Because it takes concepts that we can’t deal with in everyday conversation and in everyday life, and holds them up to a light that allows us to see both sides of the coin: the funny and the tragic. With that knowledge, we notice that there isn’t much separation between the two. That’s the beauty of this play; it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, from tears to laughter to tearing up from laughter, and it’s mixed up in a smorgasboard of ridiculous characters with gripping stories.

I know that now, after working with the cast and crew for over a month. Initially, though, I was resistant. The script stereotypes all of its characters and pokes fun at homosexuals. Its men are all gay, all flamboyant and completely fit the humorous image so often made fun of.  So naturally, I was confused. It made no sense to perform a play that simply made fun of people the same way a bully might.

But after a week of rehearsals, and by really digging into the script, I realized the only reason I found it offensive was because I was uncomfortable with the image they were presenting. So often we are warned against generalization, learning that gay people are just like everyone else. The play was counter to that, but I quickly learned that was the point.

Jeffrey doesn’t encourage its audience to laugh at its characters, it encourages its audience to laugh with them. It acknowledges the stereotypes, all of them, and in each one finds the humor that all can relate to.  It makes the topic more approachable, because when everyone is laughing, truly enjoying themselves, then they are comfortable, both with themselves and with the subject matter.

That’s the beauty of humor. It’s universal. It allows us to say “hey, you think that’s funny? Me, too.” It breaks down walls, because being able to laugh at the same joke is having something in common. And that commonality is so essential to acceptance, especially between otherwise dissimilar groups.

There’s a thin line between laughing at and laughing with. The former is exclusive, hurtful and pointed. But the latter is pure joy. It is acknowledgement, understanding and the ability to find humor even in the roughest areas of life. So I invite you to come and laugh with us and share in our fun. Even if you don’t, I hope you learn to laugh with others in your own life, because trust me when I say it feels so much better than the awkwardness of unapproachable silence. As Mark Twain noted, “against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand;” there is nothing more powerful than the shared jubilance of humor.


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