From the co-founder of the Trevor Project and Academy Award-winning writer of Trevor comes James Lecesne in the Off-Broadway play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.
In this 70 minutes production, James portrays several characters including a Jersey detective who was put on an assignment – to find a missing 14-year-old boy named Leonard Pelkey. Throughout the town, Leonard was known as the flamboyant, over-the-top, gay kid. He was best known for his colorful platform sneakers made of Converse sneakers on top of flip-flop soles, dark mascara, nail polish and a girly hair clip. He was bullied every single day at school and on the streets.
But the bullying never weakened Leonard. He would advise the ladies at the hair salon what to wear or what hairstyle to strut. He always saw the brighter side in people. While many found him strange or repulsive, Leonard found nothing wrong with who he was. He never dressed or acted a certain way for attention. He was just being himself. The family he lived with asked him to tone it down for his safety. But he never did. How can you tell someone to “tone it down” when the person sees nothing wrong with what he or she is doing?
After his death – murder – many lives at the Jersey Shore changed. The ladies Leonard helped dress and the men he inspired with his love for the theater (Shakespeare) took away something deep and powerful from his grueling death. They each for different reasons understood how Leonard left a beautiful light in their lives. He was just a normal boy who saw brightness in every person and in life. He was innocent and others couldn’t see it. Sadly, it took a death to come to terms with who Leonard really was and his wonderful ways.
James had me in tears yet managed to make me laugh. Though this is a fictitious character, Leonard felt so real. And you know what? He is real because there are countless teenagers who are bullied, persecuted and hated on because of his or her sexual preference. There are teenagers afraid to seek help or advice for fear of being turned away, judged or hurt. I find it unjust that people judge others for being who they want to be. I find it unjust when people act righteous and almighty towards teens and adults who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Why the hurtful words? Why the hate crimes? Why the bullying? Why the judgement? Not all of us come from the same religion or beliefs, so let us not use religion as a reason. Why can’t we just accept and respect each other for who we are?
I am delighted that I saw this play. It’s brilliant, touching, heartfelt and meaningful. Let’s open our minds and hearts and extend a helping hand. The more love we give, the better the world will be.