Monday, 5 June 2017

The Lavender Railroad

by Darren Stewart-Jones

Lawrence Aronovitch is a former Playwright in Residence at The Great Canadian Theatre Company. He has written plays about scientists (Marie Curie), poets (W.H. Auden), politicians (Ezekial Hart) and movie stars (Hedy Lamarr). He is the former Artistic Director of Toto Too Theatre in Ottawa and has served as a member of the advisory board for Canada's Magnetic North Theatre Festival. His plays have appeared at Vancouver's Clean Sheets Festival and Toronto's Gay Play Day LGBTQ Theatre Festival among others. Lawrence's play, The Lavender Railroad, is set in a world where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. The play receives its Toronto premiere this month, produced by In-The-Moment Theatre. I had the chance to chat with Lawrence, who recently made the move from Ottawa to the GTA.

Gay Theatre Toronto:

What inspired you to write the script for The Lavender Railroad?

Lawrence Aronovitch:

I wrote the play in 2010 and intended it as a parable, a cautionary tale, to remind ourselves of what the world could be like if we neglected our responsibilities to ourselves and to future generations. It is troubling that only a few short years later so much of the dystopian air of the play is all too real in too many parts of the world. All the more important, then, that the play be presented to audiences today. I fear its message is needed more today than when it was first written.


A lack of rights and freedoms for LGBTQ individuals seems like an alien notion to much of this current generation. Do you think LGBTQ rights could be in serious jeopardy for Americans during Donald Trump's presidency?

L. A.:

We are very fortunate in our society and enjoy considerable rights and freedoms thanks to the hard work of those who came before us. My concern is that the younger generation may be unaware of the dire situation their counterparts face in many other parts of the world today. And yes, as one of my heroes in LGBTQ activism has observed, sometimes the pendulum swings back - perhaps in the U.S., perhaps some day here in Canada. I hope that a story such as The Lavender Railroad might inspire us to find out more about our world and, more significantly, that it might inspire us to find ways to fix what's broken. As one of my character remarks, "Whoever saves a life - it's as if he saved the entire world."


And now Canada has Andrew Scheer to contend with as leader of the Conservative Party. Any thoughts on what it might mean for LGBTQ Canadians if Scheer became our next Prime Minister?

L. A.:

I try to be an optimist and seek out the best in people - even as some of my characters in The Lavender Railroad deride those who believe in "the best of all possible worlds." Canadian society has evolved in the last few decades, which I think would make it very challenging for anyone to undo the many ways our society has evolved. As we saw with the previous Conservative government, whatever the personal beliefs or convictions of individual politicians may be, the desire to win elections is likely to be greater than the desire to enact changes that Canadians clearly reject. With this in mind, I believe it's important to keep communications open - there are many ways to win people over.


What do you believe is the reason - besides ignorance and bigotry - for this current push back against freedoms and rights for the LGBTQ community?

L. A.:

Ignorance and bigotry count for a lot, alas, and oftentimes what underlies both is fear. Fear is an extremely powerful emotion, and we have seen how it has animated the political conversations in a number of western countries in recent years. We are extremely fortunate here in Canada to have escaped the worst of these trends to date. But fear, ignorance and bigotry cannot be countered passively - we must always be active and positive in response. There are some hopeful signs - sometimes a bit faint, sometimes less so - that the pendulum can indeed swing back in a positive direction. But while I remain hopeful, the point of a play like The Lavender Railroad is to bolster that hope by reminding ourselves of the alternatives and, I hope, to inspire ourselves to work diligently to make sure that the pendulum swings the right way.


Or, in fact, the left. Thanks, Lawrence! 

The Lavender Railroad by Lawrence Aronovitch runs June 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18 at 8 pm at The Box Toronto, Suite 103  - 89 Niagara Street. Ticket info at

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