Written in 2013, Accept "Except" LGBT NY is the second rendition of Karimah’s series Accept "Except." The original rendition featured two male fugitives who cross paths in a tree. Their stories address the high juvenile incarceration rates and the effects incarceration has on families and communities. The play was written in response to the 13th Amendment which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” After the creation of the original play, various renditions were created — such as Accept “Except” LGBT NY, Accept "Except" LGBT Philly, Accept "Except" Male Nashville, and Accept "Except" Male Detroit.
Although all the plays are related to the 13th Amendment and address similar issues, what differentiates Accept “Except” LGBT NY from any other renditions is that it focuses on a very specific demographic of being black and queer in New York. Directed by Tony-Award winner George Faison, Accept “Except” LGBT NY features two queer people, Sirus — a gay man from the plantations during the 1700s, and Mike — a lesbian woman from the 21st century penitentiary. As a result of the racism and homophobia in our culture, being black and queer does not make life easy for these two characters, no matter what time period they live in. In addition, these characters are fugitives who constantly must hide from hate crimes in order to survive. Despite the specificity, because of the play's dynamic, the issues that these characters address also highlight the universal problem of longing for acceptance.
Mike phrases it best when she states ““I don’t want to change people. I just want them to accept that they can’t change me.” This moment highlights one of many moments in which these two characters realize that despite their differences, they both are human. They both have been surviving in society rather than living. However, there comes a point where a person has to stop hiding and “come out” in order to make a change.
This idea is reinforced in the discussion after the performance. It becomes clear that the play is a vehicle to address societal issues in a safe environment. Questions ranging from “How can the past help influence our future?” to “Who is actually free in our society and who is still imprisoned within the societal structures?” can be thrown around, forcing the audience to look within themselves and reflect on their own lives.
So as Sirus asked Mike, I am going to ask you…“What are you doing to help make a change?”
Accept “Except” LGBT NY runs until Nov. 23 at the Castillo Theatre (543 West 42nd St.). Performances are on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered by phone at 212-353-1176 or www.newfederaltheatre.com.