compass for navigating the gray, and with compassion can come a deeper awareness of one’s own internal contradictions and an acceptance of them.Lesbian culture has barely begun to emerge from the trauma of the closet.We have been burned at the stake, banished to convents, locked up inmental asylums for “erotomania,” excommunicated, drummed out of themilitary in disgrace, disinherited, fired, evicted, arrested in our own bars,raped at the police stations. We have been denied our right to legalprotections, denied the sanctity of our committed relationships. We havelost custody of our children. Our literary heritage has been fraught withvampiric homewreckers, predatory school mistresses, lonely spinsters, andmonstrously insatiable sex addicts. In these narratives, the “happy ending”has usually entailed our death—frequently by our own hand.Cultures recover from traumatic silence and secrecy in stages that aresimilar to those experienced by individual survivors. Just as survivorsraised in abusive environments pass through a stage of casting off the falseidentities imposed on them by their perpetrators, so a culture emergingfrom repression casts off the false stereotypes and paradigms of thatoppression. Contemporary lesbian culture has embraced new archetypesof lesbians as heroines, as rescuers of women, as visionary leaders andartists and activists. The world that has historically scapegoated us isthrown into sudden relief, with its brutal history of misogyny and patriarchalcontrol over women’s bodies. The narratives have become reversed as thelesbian lover is depicted as the agent of sanity and healthy sexuality. Thisis cause for celebration, just as it is for the survivor on her way toreclaiming her identity.And, just as with the survivor, there is a further stageof evolution, where this emerging identity becomes robust enough toincorporate contradiction—where lesbian central characters can be bothvictim and perpetrator, and where we can bear to examine, up-close, thedamage—the internalized oppression from surviving a homophobic world—and how this can still manifest in our post-recovery culture.
is a play about late-stage cultural recovery. It is about a womanwho is both courageous in her resistance and shocking in her perpetration.She finds ingenious ways to keep alive both her ambition and her sexualityin the stultifyingly repressed environment of a 17
-century, Italian convent,where neither are allowed and where self-abasement and self-denial arethe order of the day. And, simultaneously resisting and acting out the