Saturday, October 17, 2009


‘14’ a thought provoking offering at Kent State University

During the recent amendment fight in California, it was revealed that much of the money for the campaign to eliminate the state’s same-sex marriage legislature,was donated by the Morman Church. This was not the only time that the Morman’s have gained the wrath of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered (GLBT) community.

Reparative therapy attempts to change the sexual orientation of a person from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. The so-called therapy is based on the religious belief that homosexuality is an illness and can be cured. Since both the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association, the official psychological organizations of those who practice in the field, have declared that being gay or lesbian is not an illness, they both recommend that ethical practitioners refrain from practicing reparative therapy or refer patients to those who practice this shame. That, of course, is of little interest to the Morman Church, whose active bigotry goes on.

John Cameron’s ‘14’ illuminates the work of Max Ford McBride, then a graduate student in psychology, who exposed gay male students to pornography and delivered shocks of up to 4.5 miliamperes of electricity in hopes of “curing” them of their “condition.” These procedures, are deemed today to be both ineffective and barbaric. Fourteen students completed the experiment, thus giving the title of the play.

John Cameron was one of the fourteen. When asked why it took him so long to speak out and write the play, he indicated that he had spent so much of his life trying to forget and minimize what he had done that he had somehow convinced myself that most people would find it more disgusting than interesting. Then, he stumbled onto the “Affirmation” website. He learned that his therapy was not an isolated event, but one of the more visible elements in a long history of abuse at BYU. He stated, “Writing the play was a way for me to work though my anger and isolation.”

The story centers on the psychological conflict between the main character, Ron, a BYU professor of English, who is cynical and bitter, and Aaron, a BYU student who is conflicted and confused. The shocking ending, reveals that, in fact, what we are seeing is the same person at two stages of his life, one of whom finally comes to terms with himself.

The Kent State production, under the direction of the play’s author, who graduated from KSU in 1986, was compelling. The night I saw the production, the sold out audience was in rapt attention throughout.

Eric van Baars, a member of the theatre and dance faculty at the university, portrayed Ron with the right amount of angst and sarcsim. His performance is even more impressive considering that he was a late replacement for graduate student Mark Moritz, who had to withdraw from the cast due to his father’s unexpected death. Tricia Bestic, a well know local equity actress portrayed Judy, who acted as the catalyst to get Ron to reveal the truth of the experiements. The rest of the cast was composed of students. Some were more proficient than others. Jason Leupold, as Ron’s lover, who eventually died to AIDS, was excellent. Aaron Schonover (Aaron) had some strong moments, but went in and out of character. The rest of the assemblage varied from excellent to acceptable.

‘14’ was presented as part of the Roe Green Visting Director Series, supported by a 10 year $25,000 a year donation by Ms. Green, a local arts patron and activist who recently made the largest donation capital gift ever given to KSU. It is being used to create the Roe Green Center, which will create new and renovate the present KSU theatre and dance facilities.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘14,’ which closed on October 18 was a play worth seeing. It’s the kind of script that Dobama or CPT does so well. Let’s hope that one of them will take on the project.