Unnatural Acts

Originally posted on TDF Stages. Read the full article HERE.  

Unnatural Acts

Harvard is one of America’s most prestigious institutions, so a story set there, especially a dark one, especially a scandal, can uniquely capture our attention. On Wednesday, Classic Stage Company rounds out its season with Unnatural Acts, a world premiere that portrays a group of gay Harvard students who were interrogated in 1920 because of their sexuality.

Based on true events, the play begins with the suicide of a Harvard sophomore, Cyril Wilcox. When word leaks that Cyril has been involved in an underground gay community on campus, Harvard’s administrators decide to rid the university of its problem with “homosexualism” and expose the other members of this social sphere. They establish a Secret Court, whose interrogations unleash a floodgate of new nightmares for unsuspecting students.

Director Tony Speciale conceived of the production in 2006 while studying in Columbia University’s MFA theatre program. After reading an article about the Harvard interrogations, he tracked down the 500-page transcript that the Secret Court had kept hidden for decades. These documents, which identify students believed to be of questionable sexuality and detail their supposed “acts of depravity,” only surfaced in 2002, and their disclosure prompted Harvard’s then-president Lawrence Summers to issue a public apology for the acts of his predecessors.

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