ANNA Livia Lesbia is a new play by Joni Crone, a Dublin woman who was the first Irish lesbian to come out publicly on The Late Late Show almost 40 years ago. She was 26 years old.
This play - which can be seen in the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, this evening (Monday, July 3) - explores the early gay rights and women's movements through the eyes of a young lesbian who is making sense of the scary, exciting, bizarre and sometimes downright funny world she now finds herself in as she travels on her coming out journey through the wilderness that was lesbian life in 1970s Ireland.
This important semi-biographical play asks many questions about identity, family, community, activism and freedom.
Joni, who now lives in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, wrote the play while she was writer in residence at the Glens Centre in Manorhamilton. The play is currently touring with the Glens Centre resident theatre company Splódar under director Prin Duignan. This dynamic company presents works in both Irish and English and is committed to staging new works in both languages.
Back in February 1980, Joni was on The Late Late Show to promote the helpline she had helped to set up. It was through this helpline that she witnessed first-hand the suffering of those who were forced to be invisible or suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
From it she had heard the heart-breaking stories of people who were assaulted, disowned or at risk of being sectioned for their sexual beliefs. Many others in small communities were being forced to emigrate. Crone, too, was to have that same pressure. It was an Ireland that, not long after, Declan Flynn was murdered in Dublin in a homophobic attack.
This Ireland, according to Crone, was in the midst then of a 'much harder struggle. It was important for her then, as it is now, that people didn’t feel isolated; that they knew there were others out there too.
However, the interview didn’t give her a chance to speak about these things. Rather it was an exploration of her personal life. Did her parents see her as deviant or as sinful? What did the clergy think? Might it affect her potential at promotion?
The immediate reverberations from the interview were large. For Joni she was to suffer backlash but also support. A flood of letters to the show also showed that 60% were on her side.
Anna Livia Lesbia gives a voice to the many from that time, and before, who forged the way to today. “We’ve all survived and here’s the new generation that can stand on our shoulders and live in a more equal and diverse society,” said Crone.
The play hits the Linenhall stage at 8 p.m. this evening. Contact the venue on (094) 9023733 for tickets.