|Photo courtrsy of TCG Books|
The story takes place on the campus of a large state university in the northeast. Gabe, a 21-year-old student, runs the Queer Student Group. He just started dating Drew, who is the editor for the university newspaper. They meet Teddy Ferrara, an awkward freshman, when he shows up late for the Queer Student Group meeting. Gabe gives Teddy the information he missed and invites him to the group’s upcoming dance party. After he leaves, Drew calls Teddy “a weirdo.” Drew also expresses his jealousy toward Gabe’s roommate, Tim, who is straight. Gabe brushes off both of Drew’s comments.
The on-campus suicide of a student, Kevin Gillman, the previous school year is beginning to get a lot of press attention. Information has surfaced that he committed suicide because he was gay and closeted. The Provost forms a student committee to meet with the President of the University to discuss how to change the homophobic atmosphere the LGBTQ students encounter on campus. Gabe is a member of this diverse committee of student representatives.
When Teddy shows up at the dance party, he tells Gabe that his straight roommate videotaped him in his dorm room having sex with someone he met on line. Gabe is concerned, but focused on the evening’s event and does not address it any further. Everyone else is too caught up with their own drama to notice that Teddy has isolated himself. When Teddy commits suicide later that night by throwing himself off the same library balcony as Kevin Gillman, the homophobic atmosphere of the campus if thrown into greater scrutiny.
This play is Brechtian in structure and style. It clearly and simply illustrates a series of actions from which the audience can draw their own conclusion. Mr. Shinn gives the audience a bird eye view into the individual behaviors that form this community. In doing so, he has successfully written scenes of “pure action,” as Brecht emphasized, without any moral explanation to guide the audience toward a purposeful learned outcome. Not one of the characters seems to be aware of or sensitive to what is going on around them. They are unaware of their contribution to the creation of an alienating environment. None of them seems to realize they could have changed Teddy’s situation by simply including him in any one of their conversations.
|Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre|
In the notes at the beginning of the play, Mr. Shinn writes, “The design should be simple in order to maximize speed of storytelling.” The play does not designate locations for any scene, yet the dialogue is specifically grounded in the setting, which is vital for the flow of action and development of events. This play can almost be performed on a bare stage. The actions are that concise and riveting. I am in awe of Mr. Shinn’s skills in crafting this piece. Teddy Ferrara had its world premiere at Goodman Theatre on February 11, 2013. I hope it is produced after the pandemic so I can see a full production. Get a copy of Teddy Ferrara and read it for yourself.