“Another America: Asking and Telling,” performed by Marc Wolf, is a ground-breaking and must-see performance. The play covers the very pertinent issue of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and Kansas City is fortunate enough to be the venue for such a dynamic play in such an historical time.
Wolf interviewed more than 150 men and women, straight and gay, and all but one were either current or former members of the military.
He asked their opinion about the policy, which limits gay men and women from serving openly in the military. The play demonstrates real-life interviews, all through the voice and body of actor Marc Wolf.
Although the play was originally created and performed in Chicago in 1999, Artistic Director Eric Rosen (who in my opinion is quite the visionary with plays such as “Clay” and “Venice” under his belt) fortunately brought it back to the stage.
Before the performance, Rosen mentioned a brief history of the limited rights, discrimination and prejudice of those in the military in addition to gays and lesbians which have included Japanese-Americans, African-Americans and women.
Certainly, the play could not be timelier. On Dec. 18, 2010, the United States Senate voted to lift “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and on Dec. 22, 2010, President Obama signed the repeal.
Most Americans have an opinion about this topic, some stronger than others. What is particularly appealing about this play is its unbiased nature. Every word Wolf speaks is verbatim from the interviews. This in and of itself gives the play immense credibility.
Wolf also skillfully integrates humor at the most opportune moments and then makes your heart drop at the moments you least expect it. Wolf toys with viewers’ emotions in an evenhanded manner, similar to the balance of beliefs in the interviews.
There was a commonality between all of the statements from various military men and women: it’s complicated. The play demonstrates the many shades of grey within the subject matter and focuses on the complexity within each individual’s stance.
Many beliefs were shaped from their childhood, a person they knew, a community they were a member of and so on. Everyone had a story as supporting evidence for their current belief in the matter of gays and lesbians openly serving in the military.
Another equally expressed sentiment was fear. Every word spoken during the play occurred before the lift on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban. The threat of being found out became increasingly apparent in the interviewees’ voices. “Another American: Asking and Telling” becomes even more compelling, then, when you realize some of these men and women’s careers are at stake for openly discussing their sexual orientation.
The beauty of the performance is in the way the interviews are demonstrated. With only a desk, chair, glass of water, microphone, voice recorder and never changing out of his khakis and charcoal grey T-shirt, Marc Wolf had all of the attention.
By creating simplicity on the stage, he seamlessly transitioned between various roles he was portraying—extending from a male Vietnam veteran to a discharged lesbian to a naturalized citizen with a heavy accent. His acting flawlessly created the image of the person he was representing, in such a way you actually thought he was the person.
I would recommend this play to every American, but especially to college students. Our generation rose to great numbers in the last presidential election, verifying we have a voice and mind of our own.
“Another American: Asking and Telling” will not sway you in one direction or another. It will, however, engage you to acutely explore your stance on the important issue of being able to openly serve for my, your and our country.