by Talia Argov & Jessa Verhoef, Features Reporters
photo contributed by Valerie Goldstein
Accepting her LGBTQ+ identity was a complex journey for senior Valerie Goldstein.
She found inspiration through her struggles and wrote and directed a semi-autobiographical play, which she called “Lia’s Love Story.”
“My inspiration was my own life, but also recently seeing more attention on LGBTQ+ stories in books and movies,” Goldstein said. “When I was personally going through the events that happened in the play, I felt very alone […] I thought if I tell my story, other people [will] know they aren’t alone.”
“Lia’s Love Story,” which was rehearsed and performed by South Stage from December through March, follows Lia, a teenage girl who questions her sexuality. Set in two different points during Lia’s adolescence, the play documents the high and low points that discovering your identity and accepting your sexuality bring.
Goldstein said this was the first play she has ever directed.
“I wanted to try writing and directing on more of a professional level than just goofing around with my friends, and South Stage gave me that opportunity,” she said.
Senior Sarah Erani, who worked behind the scenes on the show, said that obstacles arose when developing a play during COVID-19.
“We had some people that were fully remote, and we can’t have everyone coming in at the same time because of social distancing,” she said. “That was its own challenge.”
Goldstein said that safety protocols like social distancing proved difficult, but she made extra efforts to overcome technological boundaries to bond as a community.
“On opening night I had the cast write compliments for each other, put them on little flower cards online, and then I organized them and had each person read their favorite on closing night so they could just have some positivity before they went on stage,” she said. “It definitely is different from normal South Stage shows when we have cast bonding in-person.”
Freshman Phoebe Anthony, who played Lexa, a classmate and love interest of Lia’s, said that performing during the pandemic was a positive experience like no other.
“It was different, but it worked out well,” she said. “Rehearsals were different than usual because of capacity limits, but we still connected. Even with masks and COVID-19 and social distancing, we spent a lot of time with each other, so we still formed a good bond.”
Erani said that working on “Lia’s Love Story” taught her valuable lessons.
“One major thing is that you don’t always have to know everything to be there for your friends. Sometimes it’s enough to just be present,” she said.
Anthony said that the play helped her see the world through a different lens.
“Something that I took away is that don’t judge someone by just what they show you because there’s so much more depth to a person than just the outside. That was one of the main themes in the show that I thought was really good,” she said.
Senior Elianna Kruskal, Goldstein’s close friend and co-director of photography for the play, said “Lia’s Love Story” gives the LGBTQ+ community a platform, bringing light to many of the challenges they face.
“I’ve been pretty lucky to personally have LGBTQ+ representation in my life. There’s a lot of people that this story probably meant something to,” he said. “It was really valuable for Valerie to have created a story that more people can resonate with to show that [being LGBTQ+] is still not perfectly smooth sailing, even in a place like this.”