One Night Only – FREE July 2nd 7:00pm, at the Neptune: David & Jonathan: A Modern Day Retelling of the Biblical Story
We all know the David-and-Goliath story, and that David became King. But before he became King, King Saul and his son Jonathan raised him toward nobility and Jonathan loved him. (It begins around 1 Samuel Chapter 9, if you want to read the relevant story.)
Kathya Alexander, local playwright, has reset this story into a modern context and translated the story into the hierarchy of a local megachurch, the fictional The Holy Kingdom Baptist Church, pastored by Saul Benjamin and his son Jonathan. It will be presented as a staged reading, with some blocking, some costuming, and even a small church choir.
The Bible talks about Jonathan and David “loving” each other and many scholars bend over backwards to explain it was a platonic and honoring kind of love and appreciation, and the Hebrew words translate as a kind of best-friends feeling, rather than the sexual love demonstrated by Solomon’s Song of Songs.
Kathya Alexander feels it’s exactly that kind of meticulous documentation against homosexuality that has fed the homophobic attitudes current today in many churches. Kathya says, “I’m just presenting both sides of the issue and people are free to decide their position on it. I just hope that people understand what black homophobic churches do to people, but I don’t want to condemn the church or homosexuality. I want people to know that the black community is better together supporting each other than we are divided and tearing each other down.”
Kathya includes in her play aspects of mental illness – in the Bible Saul is plagued by evil spirits and soothed by David playing his lyre, and gang violence – the deaths of Jonathan and Saul come about because a gang member being mentored at the church kills them. But her main focus is on the difficulty that David and Jonathan have at being able to talk about and be open about their love for each other.
Kathya had two community forums where she talked with African-American gay men about the biblical story and their personal relationships with their churches. She says, “They were two of the most profound conversations I’ve ever had, (about) how they felt that their churches had rejected them or preached homophobic sermons. One musician at one of the churches told me that he sits on the piano bench on Sunday and listens to the minister preach against homosexuality even though (the congregation pretty much knows) their musician is gay.
“I asked him how he deals with that and he said, ‘I just focus on the music.’ A lot of the stories at these forums were just heartbreaking to me.
“I don’t know any black male gay relationship (in an intimate way) and wanted to know how they wanted me to portray the relationship. And they said just make it love, don’t make it sex. I really wanted to honor those men and their relationships and what they wanted the community to see African-American gay men as.
“Many of them told stories of family member rejecting them or the fear of that and why they didn’t come out for years and how it had affected their health. It was not only important for me to get the story of Jonathan and David out, but also honor what these men had given me of themselves.”
Come see this special performance. You’ll have a whole day to recover from Pride weekend activities and be ready to support an important conversation about faith and personal sexuality.