Volume 22, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 11 - 17, 2009
SHE LIKE GIRLS
Written by Chisa Hutchinson
Directed by Jared Culverhouse
A Working Man’s Clothes production
Through December 30
At the Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street
For tickets, call 212-352-3101
Photo by Julie Rossman
Karen Eilbacher, left, as Kia; Karen Sours as Marisol
She like girls; and pays the price
Playwright charts sad cost of same sex affection
BY JERRY TALLMER
There are tightly written plays and loosely written plays. Here is a fragment of an admirably tight-written first play — well, first produced play — by a young woman named Chia Hutchinson. The name of the play is “She Like Girls.”
Talking to one another by telephone are 16-year-old high school classmates Kia Clark and Marisol Feliciano. Kia, black and bright, is beginning to fall in love with Marisol, a gorgeous, rebellious Latina.
KIA: Can we not get caught up on that word?
MARISOL: What word? Gay?
MARISOL: Lesbo?…The best fuckin’ girl kisser a girl ever kissed?…[Silence]…Kia, you still there?
MARISOL; I mean it. And I’ve kissed guys, too. Just to be sure, you know? Definitely like girls better. And definitely like you the best…I’ve had a few flings, yeah.
KIA: Like how many?
MARISOL: Well, considering where we live, it can’t be that many, right? No, seriously though, just a few.
KIA: Few li-i-i-i-I-ke three?
MARISOL is silent.
Though pretty damn funny in parts, “She Like Girls” is the opposite of a comedy, since the real case that inspired it — the May 2003 murder of a 15-year-old Newark, New Jersey, girl named Sakia Gunn — was very far indeed from a comedy.
“I was teaching at the Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Quaker boarding school for boys and girls,” says playwright Chia Hutchinson, “when in 2005 a representative from a gay rights organization came to speak on how to give support to gay kids in our school.
“He mentioned Sakia Gunn, who two years earlier had been stabbed to death in Newark, my hometown, by a man who saw her at a bus stop and tried to pick her up. Sorry, she told him, I have a girlfriend. You’re barking up the wrong tree — and that’s when he stabbed her. A pretty disproportionate response if you ask me,” says Ms. Hutchinson dryly, in a voice so low you have to strain to hear it.
“Well. It had taken me two years to hear about Sakia Gunn, and when I went and checked, there had been [at that time] only 21 articles about her murder as opposed to 659 about Matthew Shepard,” the young homosexual student left to die in 1998 tied against a fence in Laramie, Wyoming.
Boy versus girl? [the interviewer asked]
“Boy versus girl. Black versus white,” replied the slim, attractive, brownskinned Chisa Hutchinson, with a shrug.
She had written only one play, an unproduced “The Goddess Complex” — “about the pitfalls of interracial dating” — before this one.
“I’m back in school now,” says Vassar graduate Hutchinson. “My final year at NYU Tisch. Karen Eilbacher, the actress who plays Kia, goes to Tisch too.”
In the summer of 2007, around six months after she’d sent a draft of “She Like Girls” to the Lark Play Development Center in New York City, she got a call from them.
“By now I was teaching in California. They said: ‘We want to have a reading of your play.’ I said: ‘Great! Let me know how it turns out.’ They said: ‘No, no, you have to be here to get the whole experience.’ They flew me here. The reading got a strong response, and a few months later the Lark did a bare bones production with Karen Eilbacher as Kia, and she was marvelous.”
Chisa Hutchinson says she must have gone through six or seven endings of the play until she got it right. And that ending comes to this auditor, anyway, as quite a wallop.
“On the one hand, she [Kia] has to die, there’s no getting around it. And it’s really hard to make it less unpalatable, less dissatisfying. In one draft, she was a victim. Now she’s not.”
But you have to see and/or read the play to see how she’s not.
There is a strong, unbending mother figure in “She Like Girls.”
Tell me about your mother, this journalist urged.
“Actually I have three mothers,” the playwright answers. There’s my biological mother, whom I don’t know very well. She gave me to my mom, Brenda, who took me to Pentecostal church every Sunday, and is the most big-hearted woman you’ll ever meet. When I finally got around to talking with her about these things, I did it in terms of that character, Joe, in [Tony Kushner’s] ‘Angels in America,’ who’s gay but fighting it. My mom’s response was: ‘How does it come out? Did he win?’ — in other words, did he fix it? She didn’t come to the reading of ‘She Like Girls’ and was really uncomfortable about it. When we did a workshop, I felt her cringing, and at the end she said: ‘Where do you come up with this stuff?’ But she called me later — it’s still on my voicemail after two years — ‘Just to tell you I love you…’ ”
Then there is Mother No. 3 — described only as “a quirky Buddhist white psychologist lady I’m staying with at the moment.”
Chisa Hutchinson, born in Queens, New York, May 23, 1980, is also, she says, “real close” to her father — “a compensation manager” on a national magazine. “He crunches a lot of numbers.” Pause. “I have two other dads too.”
So, Chisa Hutchinson, how close are you to Kia Clark? Do you have any boyfriends? Girlfriends?
“Not at the moment,” comes the answer.
It is the play that must, when you get down to it, answer for her.