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Halifax Theatre For Young People’s *David For Queen* deals with sensitive issues with humour and grace.



Halifax Theatre For Young People co-artistic director Tessa Mendel first read playwright John Lazarus’ *David For Queen* 20 years ago, and was struck by the way the play dealt with the challenging issue of coming out in high school with sensitivity and humour. Twenty years later, Mendel revisited the play with a mind to update it for today’s youth. “I thought kids could relate to it,” Mendel says. “It’s important that Halifax Theatre for Young People tackles issues young people are facing but also include enough depth and interest for all ages, so that adults would also see it and think it’s worthwhile.”

*David For Queen* deals with issues of hetero and gender normativity, sexual identity, bullying and how a student decides to navigate these difficult subjects. “When I looked at the play it was a bit dated,” says Mendel. “But funnily enough the issues had not changed that much.”

Mendel enlisted the help of Halifax playwright Kristin Slaney, now doing an MFA at Columbia in New York, to adapt the play. “We used multimedia to show how things are more fast-paced nowadays,” says Mendel. Through projections of texting and social media interactions, the production shows a more realistic record of what a lot of students face in terms of bullying. “Originally the play dealt with high school students, it was more edgy in its discussion of sexuality,” says Mendel. “My son’s in middle school and I’m aware that kids are dealing with those things earlier now. We wanted to start from there and deepen the understanding of those issues.”

David is a middle schooler whose path appears to be smooth, he’s got a girlfriend, popularity and good grades—but a secret comes out after a bully spreads a rumour that he’s running for prom queen. The title character decides to get real with himself and his school as a result. Mendel says the cast—including James MacLean, Mary Fay Coady, Christian Murray, Taylor Olson and Samantha Wilson—has taken the play and made it their own. “We have such a strong cast, and they bring in a lot of energy. It’s been going amazingly, it’s almost too much fun.”

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