Whim’s ‘Playing on the Periphery’ Is a Tender Celebration of Queer & Questioning Youth

Two actors playing a young girl & nonbinary child lean their heads against each other tenderly.

Diana Watts and Heather J. Ives in Playing on the Periphery (Kevin King)

Whim Productions has established itself as a local source for evocative and entertaining queer theatre, centering LGBTQ+ voices both in terms of the creatives working behind the scenes and in the characters whose stories they present onstage. The company’s current production, Playing on the Periphery: Monologues and Scenes for and About Queer Kids, written by Scott C. Sickles, celebrates the lives of queer and questioning youth—the joy as well as the pain, and all the nuanced emotions in between that are a part of their lived experiences growing up.

Playing on the Periphery tells the stories of four young kids in and around the third grade. We first learn about them and their relationships with each other via a series of monologues, set against a delightfully whimsical treehouse design by director Bradley Meyer. Zoey (Heather J. Ives) would rather hunt tadpoles than spend time with the girls in their class, and certainly relates to the pollywogs more than they do their peers. Zoey’s only friend, Daphne (Diana Watts) is dabbling in newfound popularity but finds the tea parties that come with that status to be tedious. Bertram (Pete Kuhn), the kind of boy who wears a cravat to school and does elaborate place settings in the school cafeteria, cuts ties with his best friend Robert after the latter lashes out with violence to appease his homophobic father—only for Robert (Sergio Guerra) to reveal his heartbreaking motivations for the attack in his own exceptionally tender monologue later on.

The show has a lovely arc, as all of the monologues center on these kids’ feelings of isolation, confusion, and alienation—though each exhibits great strength and sense of self in the face of those feelings. Those solo speeches give way to a series of two-partner scenes exploring the solace offered by developing deep friendships with someone who understands us. The show culminates in a single extended full-cast scene that is pure joy.

Playing on the Periphery is undoubtedly a children’s show. But there were no children in the audience the evening I saw the play, and it was no less enjoyable for the adults present. This is, by its own description, a “love letter” both to “the queer and questioning kids of today” as well as to “the queer kids we used to be.” I have no doubt young audiences would adore this play (and it’s exactly the kind of material I would have loved to perform as a young tween drama student) but it’s also built to tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of adults. At a time when LGBTQ+ people, and particularly LGBTQ+ youth, are under attack and asked to hide themselves, a play like this, joyously celebrating their visibility, is wonderful to see.

Playing on the Periphery: Monologues and Scenes for and About Queer Kids,” a production of Whim Productions, runs through August 27 at Whim Space, 415 Prospect Ave. For more information, visit whimproductions.com.

Vivian Kane

Vivian Kane is a writer living in Kansas City. She covers pop culture and politics for a national audience at The Mary Sue and theatre and film locally, with bylines in The Pitch. She has an MFA in Theatre from CalArts.

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