Goodnight, Billy. Goodnight, Daughter.
by Katy Littlejohn
With the close of Jesse LaVercombe’s Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender and Adam Lazarus’s Daughter, Kingston audiences were left with a lot of things to think about.
In Love Me Forever, we laughed, jammed, and even engaged in a little sexy phone calling while we tried to follow one of LaVercombe’s three character, 13-year old Hal, piecing together of a very important day in the near future…only to have our hearts broken in the end. One of the ideas we were asked to think about is, as technology and social media culture progresses, what does the world look like in 2021 and are we equipped to handle how simultaneously connected and distanced we will be by that time. Stella, LaVercombe’s mother character, asks an audience member if she’s a bad mother. She’s shown glimpses of jealousy over her older son’s celebrity and success as a pop star, and has left Hal home alone in Toronto, ignoring his calls all day in order to “work” as a performance researcher in Guelph. In reality, she’s been spending the day on a phone sex app. The question of “good parenting” in a world where a mother can successfully separate herself from her kids hung over the audience until Billy’s final song.
In Daughter, we were asked to tackle some difficult questions surrounding how we feel about men raised in a patriarchal society, their inherent views on women, and how they translate these views into fatherhood. Again, parenthood was something audiences were asked to consider. This time, however, Adam Lazarus began by painting a charming picture of a daddy and daddy’s-little-girl, acting out sweet dance parties with his six-year old and the captivating story of her birth. Soon we’re asked to look more and more honestly at the father character’s past interactions with girls and women, from his childhood phase of teasing to his adult years in Japan.
The talkback that followed every performance of Daughter revealed a rainbow of responses, from male audience members comparing Lazarus’s depiction to their relationships with their own daughters, to female audience members considering how fatherly protection could be considered another form of oppression, to a discussion of why certain bleak, lewd, or misogynistic comments were met with laughter.
One of the key ideas audiences of both shows seemed to walk away with was that theatre isn’t just entertainment, but a discussion—not passive, but active. What is set on stage isn’t necessarily what we are meant to accept. Sometimes, what’s put in front of us is done so with the intention that audiences experience a deep and visceral opposition to what they’ve witnessed