Shakespeare Walla Walla Presents "A Gay SDA Play"

Don't let the April 1 event date fool you—Shakespeare Walla Walla's presentation of "A Gay SDA Play" is a serious depiction of the lives of two dozen Seventh-day Adventists (some have left the denomination) who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Bradley Nelson, a graduate of Walla Walla University and playwright, says the idea for the play came from a similar dialogical presentation at Whitman College, a private school in Walla Walla, Washington.

"I was inspired by local production at Whitman where a student interviewed LGBT people his age—college-age individuals. He interviewed them, documentary-style, and created a script based on the interviews," Nelson said. Nelson left the Whitman College presentation with the thought that a similar exploration of the topic from within Adventism would be interesting. He began reaching out, starting with Kinship International, a support group for Adventist LGBT individuals.

"A Gay SDA Play" is a staged reading of a script crafted from the dozens of interviews Nelson conducted. A "docudrama," Nelson calls it, because it adapts verbatim dialogue from his interviews into a documentary-style play.

For some, the play may call to mind the "Seventh-Gay Adventists" film produced by Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer. The starting point is the same—telling the stories of lesbian and gay Seventh-day Adventists, but from there, the projects diverge. Whereas the SGA film follows three couples on film, the play features thirteen actors telling stories of a wide array of individuals based on over two dozen interviews. And while the subjects of the SGA film wanted to be Adventist, Nelson says some of the individuals whose stories the play tells have left the Adventist Church.

Nelson shared a copy of the script with Spectrum, and mixed in among the sometimes moving, sometimes humorous, sometimes troubling stories, there are surprises.

The subjects of "Gay SDA Play" are a diverse lot—lesbian women, gay men, transgender and transsexual individuals, and bisexual individuals whose stories take place in Virginia, Florida, rural Canada, Andrews University, Chicago, Manhattan and Taiwan. They are artists, stock brokers, social workers, lawyers and communications specialists for Sprint PCS, among other things, but they have in common Adventism and non-heterosexual identities.

Nelson said he hopes the play will attract audiences from both the surrounding Adventist community and non-Adventist theater goers alike. "My hope is that it sparks conversation," he said. "The Adventist Church in particular, but religions in general have differing opinions of sexuality. The more conversations in various formats, the better off we are."

"A Gay SDA Play," the second production in Shakespeare Walla Walla's "Works in Progress" series, which features staged readings of works by local authors, is scheduled for only one performance at the Gesa Power House Theatre (pictured, left) on April 1st. And attendees be advised: the production includes some frank discussion of sexuality, the kind that might be the beginning of productive conversation for the Adventist community.

"I think everybody has an interesting story if you give them the opportunity to tell it," says Nelson. "In writing this play, I was fortunate enough to be trusted with some very personal and moving examples." More information about "A Gay SDA Play," including ticketing information (free admission for students and teachers), is available at the Shakespeare Walla Walla website.


Title Image: "City of Refuge" by Joshua Haddock, the previous staged reading in the series Works in Progress series. Bradley Nelson pictured on the far right. Photo credit: Nikki Phillips.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Their stories deserve to be heard from a church that really doesn’t want to hear. Thank-you, Bradley Nelson and those involved with this play, may it be an eye and hear-opening event. God bless.


I am not in the generation to address this issue. In my day, the by line was beware of Greeks wearing tennis shoes. It was a knock down of Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome.I know parents who grieved twice. once when their son came out and then when the son died of aids. My question is, what does acceptance accomplish,is one accepting the person or the life style or both? I sincerely have no answer, but Spectrum’s advocacy offers none either or, I am missing something.All I know, if it were my son or daughter, I would love them and welcome them into my home and heart. I guess the question is should the church do the same? I don’t read Paul that way. Tom Z

I think that that your instinct to love your LGBT child is appropriate for the church. I can’t imagine having an LGBT child and not loving them completely either.

What Paul says, I believe, is heavily informed by his culture. I see nothing wrong with cultural influences as long as they increase good in the world and decrease pain and suffering. I believe that this issue is just that simple. It causes a great deal of pain and suffering; parents included. HIV/AIDS is a killer, Suicide is a killer. Irresponsible sexuality causes great harm to society.

The church should be at the forefront of practical and non-judgmental ways to keep people alive and encourage responsible sexuality. I don’t think that the way the church defines responsible sexuality is enough. It should include responsible relationships in the lives of LGBT people. We all need stability in life. We all love and crave intimacy. We are more alike than we are different.

I appreciate your candor and your willingness to be open to alternate views. I realize that Paul’s writings seem to preclude relationships between people of the same sex. Maybe this is an appropriate conclusion. I don’t know. I just know that we should know better, and we do. We know responsible relationships between people of the same gender can be rich, fulfilling, and just as stable as any other relationship.


Can’t the Church at least be friends?
NOT Enemies?
Be at least Welcoming and glad handed like we do Visitors?

At this point in time in the Church, SCIENCE and BIOLOGY and HUMAN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT from Conception and THE BIBLE are Not allowed to mix.
THE BIBLE is our Science Textbook. If the Bible does NOT say it, then Science is Wrong.
IF the Bible does Not speak to Brain Development – and ALL that is implied – then the Science of Brain Development is stated to be WRONG.

I hope this isnt where you are at this time of life. And haven’t been during your later life, as I have always [since meeting you on Spectrum] perceived you as a very wise person.

I have never been one to look with favor at the practice of telling any God Lover, You Are Not Welcome. Please leave our parking lot, Now.
ALL God Lovers, ALL God Seekers should be allowed to worship and learn about God in any Seventh day Adventist church. Should be Welcomed, and glad handed into the Community.


Steve. thank you, I needed to draw spectrum people out on their views. The history of the church seems to be to abhore the sinners more than the sin. I don’t agree, if we really read the behavior of Jesus. He came to save even the least of these, that certainly includes me. Thank you. Tom Z


I wonder how WWU feels about one of their faculty being part of the program: “This staged reading is directed by Walla Walla University English Professor LuAnn Venden”


AND, it is being put on at a Public Theatre for the Public to hear Seventh day Adventists [through the actors] lament, lament, lament that they cannot and WILL NOT be allowed to worship and celebrate God in the Seventh day Adventist church.


How bewildering it will be for those members of churches who celebrate and Welcome ALL to the Table of Christ. Allow ALL to sit at the Table and share the Cup of Salvation – the blood that was shed, to share the Bread – the body that was broken for you/me.
It is bewildering to me as a born into the Seventh day Adventist church member.

But then, WWU has an empty spot in my wallet. One of my daughters took her Masters there!


. “My hope is that it sparks conversation,” he said. “The Adventist Church in particular, but religions in general have differing opinions of sexuality. The more conversations in various formats, the better off we are.”

What kind of conversations?

What exactly is the goal, purpose, agenda of these actions/performances?

What exactly do LGBT want?
If everyone at church says “Happy Sabbath” every week to them…is this enough?
If all were allowed to be SDA members, would that be enough?
If all were allowed to be SDA elders and deacons, would that be enough?
If all were allowed to be pastors , would that be enough?
If all were allowed to be conference presidents, would that be enough?

Hi Tom

I think you make a good point. It is only when we have a personal connection with the issue, do we truly have the ability to understand. I have seen families break up over this, but I, like you, would love my son no matter what. I might not understand, but I would accept. Also, I would expect of him the same level of respect for his partner, as any heterosexual relationship.

And just for the record, if my son wasn’t accepted into heaven because of his homosexuality, then quite frankly, I would opt to stay outside with him.


And for the record also,; if a parent disowns their son or daughter for being gay, then they are not worthy to be called parents and have committed no less a transgression than child abuse.

And a religion which encourages such behaviour, however indirectly, is just as guilty.


I think you miss this issue completely if you think you can summarize it with these rhetorical questions. It is only through real understanding and connection that we will get closer to the bonds needed to fully accept each other. Any conversation other than hate speech moves us together. All mediums should and will be employed to find connections and meaning as we all learn differently. This community wants the same things we want so just ask yourself what you want and you will have the answer. Please don’t belittle this with sarcasm.


Amen. You are rejecting God when you reject your fellow man, even more so your own children with whom God makes you accountable.


Ask yourself the same questions and then you should have the answers:

Do you want to be wished a “Happy Sabbath”?
Are you allowed to be a member?
Are you allowed to be an Elder or a Deacon?
With proper training…are you allowed to be a Pastor/Conference President?

Seriously…look at yourself in the mirror and answer them all and what you will see is “them”. What would be enough for YOU- should be enough for THEM. The manner in which you speak is similar to that of how others used to view blacks and women who wanted to vote and be free people. Don’t be demeaning to other human beings.


You can say that again!

Trust The Process.


They just want to be treated like ordinary people. Is that so much to ask?


I’m so proud of Bradley! His mother was in my online support group and a subscriber to my newsletter, Someone to Talk to.

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I couldn’t agree more. Some here may consider this play as pushing the envelope. But think about it, didn’t Jesus push the envelope with the the established status quo of the church in His day. Some of the things he said and supported were considered downright scandalous to the religious leaders.
He dared call them on their bigotry, their self righteous attitudes that looked down on the outcasts of society. How we seem to forget that Jesus said He comes He will separate the saved from the last by how we have treated the least of these. It’s right there in the last half of Matthew 25. Before some folks here start going on a rant against this play they better take a long hard look at what Jesus said, and bear in mind you can’t get much more least of these if you are gay in the church.


It was pushing the envelope and I did think after I had written it that it may have been unwise. There may be parents in this sure who have been brainwashed into this type of behaviour. I feel sorry for those parents.

But as parents, we should be vigilant. Our first duty and love is to our family, and any belief system which has the potential to disrupt this, should be rejected in the most vigorous of terms.


We are the sum total of genetics and socialisation. ‘Choice’, as you describe, is not a zero base conundrum. If it were so, any decision made would be completely irrational.

No; freewill and the choices we make are based on all those influences which have brought us to where we are now.

So perhaps there is very little choice in actual fact.

Therefore, what is right and what is wrong is not so simple.

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