Just the mention of the phrase "The Down Low" conjurs up so many different emotions for me, from exhaustion, sympathy, frustration, to anger. It was these feelings that caused me to write this post that was eventually read by Courtney Baker-Oliver, director of the musical stage play The Truth(About The Down Low) .
Since J.L. King's explosive appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show this phenomenon has further villified Black gay men as predators and the number one cause of new HIV infections among Black women. So to be honest I'd heard enough about the DL because all of the discussions were the same, but that was until I spoke to Courtney.
I love surrouding myself with passionate people and Courtney's passion for GLBT issues, eradicating homophobia, and debunking the myths around the DL are at the core of the brilliance of The Truth(About The Down Low).
The show opened to critical-acclaim on Memorial Day in Washington, D.C. in 2005. After the initial success the show ran for a three week sold out run in December of the same year.
The story is centered around the Sutton family. Olivia Sutton, a forty-five year old Christian mother of two is facing the empty nest syndrome as her two children plan lives of their own. Olivia's younger child is 18 year old Chris, a senior in high school and a local football hero. Her daughter, Tiffany has just finished grad school and the family has gathered for her homecoming as the play begins. Tiffany's new boyfriend, Donnie Harrison, a pro athlete turned physical therapist accompanies her on the trip.
Meanwhile, Christopher Sutton is an all star player and the apple of his mother's eye. His best friend, AJ has been his constant companion since childhood and only AJ knows the secret that threatens to destroy the golden boy image Chris and his family have carefully crafted for him. Chris and AJ have been 'fooling around' in secret for years.
While many people will agree that the lies, deception, and hurt that is caused by a brother living on the DL is detrimental to all those involved, very rarely do we have conversations that examines what leads a person down the destructive path of down low living.
Audiences may not leave the theater condoning DL behavior, but they definitely gain insight into the complexity of a person who's afraid to live his life authentically. And for the first time onstage we see a strong Black gay character who is honest about who he is in the character AJ. In a scene between he and his boyfriend Christopher, who is wrestling with his sexuality, AJ tells him "to do what makes you breathe". I've decided to make this my theme for the year.
Steven A. Butler Jr. does an incredible job of writing the book, he manages to weave a complex story into an entertaining and informative theatrical experience. But it's the talented cast of actors that really makes the play soar. They each bring a vulnerability and realness to their roles that forces you to care about the plight of each character.
One of my favorite moments from the show is a scene titled Definition of a Faggot. In this scene AJ asserts his manhood and causes Christopher to re-think his definition of the word. You can view it here .
I think The Truth(About The Down Low) is a play everyone should see. I believe it's not enough to simply produce art, but it's imperative to produce art that will transform lives. This play could potentially be the beginning of a dialogue that cultivates understanding, truth and most of all defies stereotypes.
If you or someone you know would be interested in bringing The Truth to your town please contact Courtney Baker-Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org .