| Just Outside Redemption is painful to watch which is exactly why you should see it.
Running through this Sunday at Theatre en Bloc in Austin, Just Outside Redemption tells the story of then LGRL's Dianne Hardy-Garcia and her relentless drive to include sexual orientation in a bill that would eventually become the Texas James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. In broad strokes, the play tells stories of Hardy-Garcia's professional and personal challenges to fight for the passage of hate crimes legislation in Texas while focusing on the tale of one anti-gay assault just outside Redemption, Texas. But that does little justice to the passion and pain that is reflected from the very opening scene to the close.
While many of us know the end result of her efforts- hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation- it's more difficult to step back into history and relive what that experience was like for LGBT Texans. I had the opportunity to watch the opening night performance with many of the individuals portrayed or mentioned on stage. It was an emotional evening to say the least.
Rep. Elliott Naishtat, Andy the Intern, Dianne Hardy-Garcia,
and Rep. Glen Maxey on opening night.
Some of the characters are likely well known among our readers- folks like Sen. Rodney Ellis, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, and Rep. Glen Maxey. There are some Republican state reps that are also major characters (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent), though in some cases stories from multiple people were merged into one character for simplicity.
There were outstanding performances by Suzanne Balling playing the lead Hardy-Garcia with surprisingly sharp support from Beth Broderick playing the role of a Republican West Texas political wife (with a taste for the sauce) who becomes the accidental activist followed throughout the play. Straight LGRL intern Andy, played by David Henne, and assistant to Hardy-Garcia after 5 predecessors hits the mark not only for accuracy in acting the part, but in allowing for rapid-fire, witty exchanges with the cast.
These lighter moments are important to talk about as they provide contrast with very dark themes and emotional strain that pervade the entire performance. Don't kid yourself, Just Outside Redemption is painful to watch, which is exactly why you should see it. For those who lived through it, it's a difficult reminder of how progress was made. For those who know it only as history, it's a needed reminder to understand how different a life we are able to live because of those that fought for our rights.
You might feel like walking out of the theater because it makes you uncomfortable; I know I wanted to. I was left slightly shaking at the conclusion. But I encourage you to not only go watch it, but stay no matter what and let yourself feel the emotional intensity in the room.
Hate crimes are driven by emotion, not rationality. Just Outside Redemption makes you understand that.
Tickets are available for $15 ($10 Students/Seniors, $8 each for groups of 8+) by calling Theatre en Bloc (located at 3823 Aiport Blvd) at 512-522-4083. Final showings are 8 PM nightly through this Sunday. You can also check out their facebook page for any late breaking announcements.