I saw Still Listening….Voices Among Us on Friday night at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School theatre. Using music directed by Millie Hildebrand and a script written by Val Hiebert, a stage full of performers told the stories of people who grew up as members of the LGBTQ* community in the Steinbach area. The drama was based on interviews with dozens of people. Most of the words the actors spoke were taken verbatim from the interview transcripts. The evening’s performance was moving and thought-provoking and all the actors did a good job, but it was Evelyn Friesen playing the role of the grandmother Margaret who especially touched my heart and I’m sure those of many others in the audience.
In the drama Margaret’s grandson Alex tells her he is gay and she reacts in an accepting way. While others find it hard to come to terms with Alex’s sexual orientation his grandmother’s reaction is one of love. Later when the father of another girl in the play refuses to acknowledge or accept his lesbian daughter it is Grandmother Margaret who goes over to offer her a hug.
Evelyn, the woman who played the role of Margaret, is a member of the Steinbach church I attended for most of my life. I know that Evelyn is indeed a person of character and caring and perhaps that made her portrayal of the grandmother all the more meaningful for me.
Grandmother Margaret in the play reminded me of an older woman I was chatting with in my Winnipeg church a few Sundays ago. She proudly pulled out pictures of her grandson’s wedding to show me. She told me “what nice boys” both her grandson and his new partner were. The happy grandmother especially liked the photo of the two grooms smiling broadly with the beautiful quilt she had made them for a wedding present wrapped around their shoulders.
Yes times are changing. Communities are becoming more open to their LGBTQ* neighbors. And grandmothers may well be taking a leadership role when it comes to demonstrating an accepting and loving attitude.
MaryLou Driedger works as a facilitator for school programs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and as a student supervisor for the education department at the University of Winnipeg. She has been a weekly columnist for The Carillon, a regional Manitoba newspaper since 1985, and has written curriculums, script, lyrics, and countless articles for travel, education, historical and religious publications. Her blog “What Next” can be found at https://maryloudriedger2.wordpress.com