Religion and sexuality have long been a volatile mix. In Sister Mary’s a Dyke?!, playwright Flerida Peña takes on the Catholic Church with a story of a young girl trying to reconcile her sexuality with the doctrine that she grew up hearing.
Playing as part of this year’s Queer Arts Festival (QAF), the play follows 14-year-old Abby, a devout Catholic whose burgeoning realization that she is a lesbian builds to an unconventional coming out story. Semi-autobiographical in nature, Sister Mary’s a Dyke?! mirrors playwright Peña’s own experience attending Catholic school, where she discovered that many of the girls were gay.
“I kept seeing them in the Village, and not that I was ever close to them in school, but it really would’ve been nice to know I wasn’t the only ‘gaymo’ hanging around,” Peña says.
Playing the role of Abby is 26-year-old Kim Villagante, one of Daily Xtra’s Top 30 Under 30 youth to watch in 2013, who finds a number of parallels to her own life.
“I can really relate to this personally as a queer-identified Filipino,” says Villagante, who also attended a private Christian school as a child. “My coming-out story came later in life at university, but what I like about this story it is a very honest portrayal about a girl discovering her sexuality.”
More than a coming-out story, Peña also takes on the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality, and sees Sister Mary is a Dyke?! adding voice to those looking for reformation.
“Until I was about nine or 10 years old I was myself very religious and really drank the Catholic Kool-Aid,” she says. “It was really when my sexuality started to make itself known that I started to question Catholic teachings and moved away from religion as a whole. If the idea of reforming the Catholic Church strikes a chord with people, whether they’re radical queers or straight and straight-laced Catholic, it would be a major plus.”
For Chris Gatchalian, artistic producer of the frank theatre company which is co-presenting the piece at QAF, Sister Mary’s a Dyke?! feeds into his company’s mandate to highlight stories from across the queer spectrum.
“At the centre of this story is a young Filipino school girl coming to terms with her dykedom. It is a story that we’ve never seen before,” he says.
Sister Mary’s a Dyke?! plays as part of the Queer Arts Festival from Tuesday, July 28–Sunday, Aug 2, 2015 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver. Check the QAF website for tickets and information.
Editor’s note: This article was corrected on July 27 to accurately reflect the title of the play: Sister Mary’s a Dyke?!