“Straight men needto reclaim their ability toshow love to one another,” says Shawn Macdonald whose new play Demon Voice seeks to shift our understanding of intimacy.
“Men need to stop fighting and start loving. It’s a really important thing for us where we are globally. There is an archetype of male identity, which is very wounded and fighting and angry. It is trying to change, trying to find ways to love other men. What the world needs is to devise ways for men who aren’t gay to express love.”
Macdonald’s new play, premiering Nov 19-28 at Performance Works, is the narrative of six people’s lives as they interconnect in a quest for intimacy. Two of the characters, Pete and Daryl, are straight men that find themselves falling in love while incarcerated together.
“The character of Pete spent most of his life in violence as a dangerous offender. When he comes out of prison, he’s almost on a mission to remedy all the violence and men he beat up. It is a conscious decision to be gay — male tenderness to mitigate the violent background,” explains Macdonald.
“Pete wants to cancel out the negative destructive behavior between men. He goes from the violent image of man against man and champions gay love.”
But straight men can love each other too, Macdonald notes. “Tenderness between men has become assigned to gay people. It’s become taboo for straight men to express tenderness. The gay community has to stop labelling that.”
Not all “man-on-man or woman-on-woman love” is gay, he points out.
“We are coming to a point in history, gay and in the world at large, where ghetto will not work anymore,” Macdonald says. “We came together in camaraderie and to comfort ourselves, it forced us into a ghetto. Which also saved us and fostered a huge sense of pride and love and the ability to face incredible odds. However, I do think that there was a cost in the creation of a ghetto. I think the cost of any sort of ghettoization is the loss of the sense of oneness that we share with people who aren’t gay and that they share with us.”
The six characters in Macdonald’s play are all very different; the thing that connects them all is the work they all have to do as humans.
“Demon voice is the voice in our heads that tells is that we’re crap, that we’re no good. It’s the process of ripping those masks off. We need to look at those wounds. The demon voice, ego voice that tells us we’re ugly and should be ashamed, those are aspects of ourselves we need to heal. That’s why intimacy is so important,” Macdonald says. “It is the most terrifying thing, but it’s really essential. A person can only be healed in the context of relationship. The reason we get into relationship is because we have those parts of ourselves that need to heal.”
Macdonald drew from his own life in the creation of this drama. “When I started writing this play it took the course it did, wouldn’t let me just write a comedy. I was learning about what intimacy meant for me at the time. The stuff that’s in these characters is stuff that is in me and stuff that I am struggling to understand. I’ve learned that intimacy is possible in almost any relationship, that it’s easier to be intimate with strangers. That we can open up to strangers in a way that is difficult with those close to us. I went through a period where I was getting intimacy from strangers that I couldn’t get from those who knew me,” he says.
“I think the inevitable consequence of intimacy is looking at yourself. You can’t be intimate without looking at yourself. If you look and like what you see, it’s easy. If you look and don’t like what you see, you have a choice in response: you can embrace it, or run from it.
“I am still working on looking at myself,” he confides. “I am in a relationship and constantly learning about myself. Ultimately, you have to become intimate with yourself or it won’t work.”
Intimacy and the search for it is what connects the six lives that collide in Demon Voice. Two old lovers from prison are reunited, an open marriage leads to the exploration of intimacy, strangers come together using sex as a balm and inevitably are forced to look at themselves.
“Our desire for intimacy completely unearths all the crap in us we don’t want to look at, our gunk is exposed,” Macdonald says. “Once revealed, we can choose to push it away or work on healing it.”