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.