Playwright tackles sexuality and acceptence in fraternities head-on in ‘Phi Alpha Gamma’

Kristin Stock

Everyone wants acceptance, but it is not always easy. Dan Bernitt, a Lambda Literary Award winner and UK graduate, aimed to explore the road of approval for homosexuals in his play “Phi Alpha Gamma.”

Bernitt came out at the age of 14. His freshman year he lived in the dorms and thought, “How is my roommate going to react when he finds out I’m gay?” While dealing with how to come out to his roommate, Bernitt began to wonder how people become homophobic.

“Phi Alpha Gamma” is based in a fraternity setting dealing with gay bashing and a brother who comes out. Bernitt said he believes the Greek system has numerous problems with homophobia and wanted to bring this out in his play. The setting of a fraternity was not to offend the Greek system, but to just put homosexuality in a group setting.

“What right do I have to judge these people when I am not a part of their group?” Bernitt said.

He researched homosexuality in a fraternity setting to make sure he was right and not completely out of line.

“The atmosphere created in most fraternities is one that is not overly accepting to homosexuals, nor is it the best atmosphere for someone with a different sexual preference,” said Jeff Steller, president of Phi Kappa Tau. “It is easy for a homosexual to feel excluded.”

Bernitt wanted to have that brotherly bond found within a fraternity because he never had brothers. He wanted that nurturing feeling of an older brother, someone to guide and hang out with. He felt a fraternity would do that for him, but he did not feel he would be accepted so he did not join.

“Brotherhood is intended to transcend economic and religious background as well as sexual orientation,” said Steller. “Some of the greatest human beings I know are homosexuals. I think they have every right to join the Greek community and be active members of it.”

Bernitt wants acceptance to transcend from his play and bring awareness to the issue of homophobia.

“We are hoping this play will bring awareness about GLBTQQA (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied) issues to a wider audience than we have been able to reach before,” said Casey Lyons, president of OUTsource. “Members of the Greek community who ordinarily would never go to a GLBTQQA event might be interested in this because it deals with something in their everyday lives, and regular theatergoers who might not ever step foot in OUTsource may still attend this play just because they like theater.”

Bennitt said his goal for the play is not to attack anyone but to show “people as people.”

“This is meant to be a fun alternative way to reach people who we wouldn’t normally reach,” said Lyons.

“Phi Alpha Gamma” will begin Friday at 7:30 in the Briggs Theater, located in the Fine Arts Building.