Coming Out at the Ballgame

At the 2008 Gay Softball World Series hosted in Seattle, one team accused another of having too many straight players.

According to Andrew Russell, the Producing Artistic Director at Intiman Theatre in Seattle, what followed was an “impromptu tribunal addressing people’s sexuality.”

These events are the backdrop for a production that Russell co-wrote with Ana Brown, entitled John Baxter is a Switch Hitter. On August 20th, the play will open at The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center—marking the second production in Intiman Theatre’s 2015 Festival.

John Baxter explores sexuality, self-actualization, and the way communities share space. The theme of this year’s festival, “The Hunt Is On,” looks at how people treat outsiders, and the fortifications that people build to protect themselves. But in this production, all those defenses come crumbling down.

“So many cultures are defined by their limitations and lack of access,” said Andrew. “What happens when a community that has been marginalized and pushed to the sides creates their safe space, and ‘outsiders’ want to get in?”

In both comedic and thoughtful fashion, the play focuses on the tension that arises when oppressed people suddenly find themselves thrust into the mainstream.

As our community continues to make progress towards LGBTQ equality, what does that mean for our culture and the spaces we’ve created for ourselves out of necessity and fear?

While not an easy question to answer, John Baxter will help begin a dialogue around critical questions that explore how we define ourselves and what that means for the broader community.

“We’re in a very different place than we were in 2008,” Andrew reflected. “We still had yet to see any significant traction around marriage equality. What we’re seeing now—and what we kept in mind while writing the piece—is the result of our recent achievements and what that means for people in our community.”

Despite the production’s focus on an event that questioned people’s sexuality, the big-picture themes touched on throughout the play relate to all aspects of our identities—creating the space for us to think about how our lives intersect with those around us.

“What we’ve worked really hard to do is to make it a universal American story,” shared Andrew. “It’s about how we actually live together. If two groups of men can’t come onto a baseball field and play a game, what can we expect from society more broadly?”

The mission of Intiman Theatre is to produce theatre that is relevant to our time and as diverse as the community in which we live. A self-described “theatre for the public good,” their goal is to foster stories that connect to our local community and to be as diversified in their delivery as they are in the stories they tell on stage.

In addition to Intiman’s strong focus on community and social justice, the 2015 Festival’s emphasis on sexuality, race, class, and other timely issues made this the perfect year for Pride Foundation to embark on a partnership with Intiman, especially in our role as a community partner for John Baxter is a Switch Hitter.

Learn more about our reasons behind the partnership, and what to expect from this year’s festival, here.

On Saturday, September 26th at 2:00pm, Pride Foundation will be attending John Baxter is a Switch Hitter with local scholars and supporters. We hope you’ll join us for this fun-filled afternoon (you can purchase tickets here), and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the production!

Zachary Pullin is Pride Foundation’s Communications Manager. Email Zachary.

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