Exclusive Essay with TRWPlays author Tyler Dwiggins

Tyler Dwiggins writes about his most personal play yet, THE BINDING, in his essay about how he came to write this story and the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in theatre and film. He calls this play “The Gay Pixar Play”.

The Gay Pixar Play

By Tyler Dwiggins

“Do we really need another ‘coming out’ story?” This phrase gets thrown around more often than it should, and I’ve never understood it. We live in an entertainment ecosystem that can support six thousand superhero movies a year. Are there really that many “coming out” stories clogging up our stages and screens?

Still, it was a phrase that bounced around my brain as I began writing my play The Binding. The first scene I wrote was that of Isaac—a closeted religious teen—asking his mother – a youth pastor—about a Bible story in which a father almost sacrifices his own son on an altar to prove his love for God. I saw that Bible story as a metaphor for religious parents who sacrifice their own relationships with their queer children after they come out.

But, I asked myself the familiar question. “Do we really need another ‘coming out’ story?”

And the truth was, I didn’t want to write a basic “coming out” play. I wanted to write something whimsical — with stage magic and literal flights of fancy. I wanted to create a play about queer characters that felt as imaginative and big-hearted as movies like Inside Out or Monsters, Inc. And that is how The Binding became what I lovingly referred to as “the gay Pixar play.”

I decided to pair Isaac’s struggle with his sexual identity and his religious upbringing with the sudden re-appearance of Poppy – Isaac’s childhood Imaginary Friend. Poppy flies into the living room window on the night of Isaac’s sixteenth birthday, and (although Isaac doesn’t know this) she is determined to push Isaac out of the closet one way or another. And Isaac definitely doesn’t know that Poppy has been forbidden to return to her Assigned Child’s home — by her own employers, the Federal Bureau of Imaginary Companionship.

With this, the play found its two worlds: a small Midwestern town and the other magical world, that of the Imaginary Friends. Like Inside Out or Monsters, Inc., we would see how these worlds butt up against each other – and how a sparkling outsider can interrupt the stasis of the ordinary world. And so, the idea of a teenager dealing with the unannounced return of his Imaginary Friend was the getaway car I needed — so that no one would realize I’d really written a “coming out” story!

The core message of The Binding is about the power (and danger) of placing your faith in something you cannot see. The characters in The Binding desperately want something to believe in, so they can survive life’s hardships and the universe’s cruel ambivalence. Whether it’s God or an Imaginary Friend or the cute boy who just moved into the neighborhood, Isaac HAS to find someone—or something– to believe in.

The Binding is my most personal play yet—but not because the characters are necessarily based directly on me. I was not really an Isaac, although he has pieces of my history in his life. And I was not his bold love interest Trevor, even though Trevor has more of my personal philosophies and sense of humor.

The reason The Binding is so personal is not because the plot is autobiographical, but because it represents the core of what I want to put into the world as a writer. I am a playwright who believes that queer characters deserve to inhabit fantastical, romantic, hilarious, heartbreaking, dimensional stories. LGBTQ+ folks have so much more to offer than rote tragedy or bitchy one-liners. We deserve to see ourselves in whimsical fairy tales and religious allegories and teen dramas and any other stories you can imagine… Maybe even one of those six thousand superhero movies!

And we deserve to see “coming out” stories. Especially weird ones like The Binding. Because every one of those stories is as unique and personal as the magical human telling it.

Read Tyler Dwiggins Bio