By: Tynan Power/TRT Reporter
NORTHAMPTON, MA-On February 19, women of Northampton welcomed prolific lesbian-feminist author, playwright and performer Carolyn Gage in her hit show “The Lesbian Tent Revival.”
“The show was a fabulous success!” said Mary McClintock, one of the event’s organizers. “One hundred women had dinner and discussion (with Gage). About two hundred attended the Revival and many stayed after for dessert and more conversation.”
An informal group of organizers calling themselves “Gather the Lesbians” teamed up to create the event.
“Carolyn was really impressed with how well produced it was,” McClintock said.
Gage, who has lived in Portland, Maine, for 13 years, is no stranger to Northampton.
“I performed The Second Coming of Joan of Arc at Thorne’s Market about six years ago, and then I came back and performed again at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst,” she said. “I love the area, and, of course, it’s supposed to be Planet Lesbian.”
The Lesbian Tent Revival intentionally draws on an evangelical religious style of preaching a saving message.
“There is a lot of power in organized religion,” Gage said. “I saw in the South of my childhood how the Southern Baptist Church became the center, as well as a spiritual support, for the Civil Rights Movement. And, then, of course, there are the evangelical tent revivals. It occurred to me that radical lesbian-feminism had saved my life. I felt, literally, as if a great light had shone on my world and suddenly all kinds of things were illuminated. So I actually do feel evangelical, or zealous, about lesbian-feminism.”
“Lesbians are in sore need of a revival,” Gage said. “Our identity has been labeled a ‘label,’ which effectively dismisses centuries of fascinating history and invigoratingly anti-patriarchal culture. So this is what the Tent Revival is all about: reviving, bringing back to life.”
“And,” she added, “Tent revivals are fun!”
“Carolyn is a brilliant thinker, performer, and activist,” McClintock said of Gage’s appeal. “Using skillful delivery of profound thoughts and humor, Carolyn’s Lesbian Tent Revival builds lesbian community and provokes thought, laughter, and conversation about important radical feminist topics.”
A show by an articulate, passionate radical feminist draws a sure audience to Gage’s shows, but Gage doesn’t just preach to the choir.
“Who comes to Lesbian Tent Revivals? All kinds of folks,” Gage said. “Sure, the (lesbian feminist) ‘choir’ is there, but so are the sick, the depressed, the desperate, the downtrodden, the overwhelmed, the curious, the skeptical, the doubting, and the challenging.”
“Younger women are especially revived. They have been starving in the patriarchal, perpetrator-identified desert of post-modern theory,” Gage said. “The Tent Revival is about connection-deep, radical connecting. It’s about putting lesbians back together, connecting us with our roots, with our history, with each other, with our memories, and with our potential as a community defined by primary commitment to women.”
Building community based on a primary commitment to women is different from building queer community, according to Gage.
“In the words of poet and author Susan Hawthorne, ‘Queer has become so inclusive; it doesn’t allow the space for lesbians to exist.’ This is definitely what I am seeing when I tour to college campuses. The men are all gay and very proud of it, but the women are nearly all ‘queer’ or ‘curious’ or ‘bisexual’ or ‘polymorphously perverse’ or ‘gay women.’ Where are the lesbians?” Gage explained.
“My experience of queer theory is that it is self-referential and that it gets off the synaptic bus ten stops before the end of the line,” she said.
Gage is committed to fostering radical spirituality.
“We need our lesbian history, our bold lesbian archetypes, our wild lesbian cultures. This is what I try to bring to the Tent Revival. I want to provide a space for the creation of a radical feminist spirituality,” Gage said. “The Tent Revival is creating a global ‘Sisterhood of the Sacred Synapse,’ because it is a tenet of the Revival that radical thinking is a sacrament. It’s not optional. It’s a sacred duty.”