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'Green Light Trilogy' examines gay issues

Is it OK for a straight woman to hit on a gay woman and pursue her for a kiss?

What happens when a single lesbian wants to have a baby and her insecure brother-housemate objects?

Should gay people, after they die, get a special section of heaven, free of prejudice?

These questions may not be answered, but they certainly will be toyed with using lots of humor and slapstick in a trio of plays premiering in Ashland on Friday.

Called "Green Light Trilogy: First Stop Love, Second Stop Heaven," the plays will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, March 1, at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St.

(Correction: See below.)

Penned by former Ashlanders L.N. Saleh and Tom Lipski, the plays emphasize "equality and the right to just be yourself," says Saleh, now living in London. "People are people and unfortunately, we allow a lot of shame and guilt to come our way, usually as a result of breaking through society's self-imposed stigmas."

Rehearsing a farcical scene in the play "Confessions of a Bridesmaid," Mig Windows plays a very drunk Allison, who tries to convince Missy (Anne Givans) that she really wants to find some ice cream and does not want to be her "litmus test" so the straight, married woman can find out whether she really likes girls best.

"Missy doesn't understand how offensive she's being," says Windows, "and how she's hurting me, Allison, because she wants to use me as a tool for her own sexuality. I don't want to deal with her sexual drama and here she is, my sister's best friend."

Both Windows and Givans say they learned a lot about gay culture in doing field research for their roles.

"Personally, I feel sexuality is more of a spectrum, not us-and-them. ... It's not OK to pigeon-hole someone about their sexuality," Givans says.

The gist of the play is that gays, like most everyone else, want a "real relationship," says director Lyda Woods of Talent. "Missy wants her Harlequin Romance moment, when she's on fire and melding with the lover, but she has an immature idea of what homosexuality is. ... It's the person, not the plumbing."

"Gay Heaven" is a comical look at a group of angels trying to arrange an afterlife that's fair and supportive of gays and that addresses rapidly growing acceptance, as seen in recent policy changes by Pope Francis, says Jacob W. Phillips, who plays St. Paul.

"It's light and whimsical as it talks about how frustrating religion and gay rights can be, because of how they're portrayed in the media," says Phillips.

In "Womb Service," a lesbian, played by Olivia Harrison, has to cope with the insecurities of her straight brother, played by Robert Hastings, as she contemplates getting a sperm donor and having a baby, says Woods. The brother needs her love and attention and a baby would rob him of that.

The first two plays in the Ashland premiere of the series have been produced before. “Confessions of a Bridesmaid” premiered in Edinburgh, Scotland, and “Womb Service” premiered in Dublin, Ireland. The Ashland production will be the first for Saleh's play “Gay Heaven.”

(Correction: See below.)

Woods found all her actors and staff in Southern Oregon University's Theatre Arts Department. The two playwrights met at an SOU Oregon Writing Project in 2001. Lipski now lives in Brookings.

"Although Ashland has a robust LGBT community, they don't often see themselves in society; they are underserved in local theater," says Woods. It's plays like these that break down culture-engendered roles and "let us see them as a form of theater."

Saleh, in a news release, notes, "Some people are gay; all gays are people."

Tickets are $15 at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/535208.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Correction: This story has been updated to have the correct performance dates and details about which parts of the series have been produced before.