Series Based On 'The L Word' Returns To Tell Untold LGBT Stories
Five years ago, Detroit playwright Shawntai Brown wrote a series of six stories for the stage based on the popular Showtime series The L Word. She called it “eLLe."
The series at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative started out like any other fan fiction, by addressing the cliffhangers - especially the mystery surrounding Jenny’s death, which was never resolved in The L Word’s last episode. After tying up loose ends, Brown says she wanted to create new characters for the show.
“When I watched The L Word, what was great about it was that there weren’t too many other shows where you could see lesbian, bisexual, transgender characters - and so that was really liberating to see those," she says.
"But one of the critiques of the show was that those were queer people who were living in L.A. and had a lot of money and had a lot of access to things. And that wasn’t really true for the spirit of Kalamazoo.”
So “eLLe Kalamazoo” was born. With characters and references to the place where most of the cast calls home.
Laura Henderson is the founder of Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, which is putting on the show. She’s also a member of the original cast of eLLe. Henderson says being in eLLe was like being in a family. She says it helped the cast members to realize truths about their own sexuality.
“Two transitioned. One left her husband realizing her sexuality. And then two others kind of came from being questioning to bisexual into owning being a lesbian I suppose. So it was a very good time of bonding and we helped each other through other issues as well,” she says.
Henderson says it was a “family” made up of talented people with busy schedules - and eventually they just couldn’t make those schedules line up. Now - after a three year hiatus - eLLe is back and so is much of the original cast. Sarah MacLean has returned to play the character Lane:
“Lane is…well she is a teacher and she is struggling this episode with trying to get a raise, trying to get a promotion at her job. And she has been struggling since the very beginning with commitment and her relationship with Izabel. She loves her and she is very committed to her, but she is just questioning…trying to find herself so-to-speak I guess.”
Jen Hebben is one of two new members in the cast. She plays Naya:
“Naya is a slam poet, she’s a free spirit. She’s someone who’s very interested in love and passion. She follows her politics. She just graduated. She’s excited about having this freedom from structure. And she’s not really sure where she’s going to go.”
Brown says Showtime’s The L Word was revolutionary television in so many ways. It told rare stories. It spoke to how LGBT issues have changed over time. It also made the characters people first and put their sexuality second. Brown says she hopes eLLe Kalamazoo can be great in the same ways.
“It wasn’t just simply about lesbian life but really how those individuals expressed that and how their sexuality played into their everyday lives,” says Brown.
You can see the latest episode of eLLe Kalamazoo on October 23rd and 24th at 8 p.m. at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative on Portage Road.