Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

23 February 2010

Gay Theatre

My friend Ryan sent me this article by Patrick Healy on gay theatre in the New York Times.

Ryan's response was: This article bothered me. It made me miss the 90s.

We had a brief conversation about the article, which veered into a discussion of Tony Kushner's seminal play Angels in America (which Ryan is currently directing) that I thought I would post, figuring that perhaps some of you have thoughts on gay theatre as well:

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Aaron: I think this is a particularly USAmerican point of view. In other words, in the United States small stories have always been more important than big ones. Angels in America has always been special among these because it takes the long view of history and set the United States in a global context. But even plays like Boys in the Band or Lisbon Traviata are really small stories about relationships more than they are anything else. These plays that don't really ask us to live in a new way but are more interested in us making a small shift or questioning something about our middle-class lives don't interest me at all.

I do think that The Pride is an exception--it is a play about history (and a smart one at that). And it seems to me that a play like Yank! is also a play about history. But if you ask me, I think you are right. I am way more interested in activism and making big changes than parsing the domestic issues of already reasonably happy (male) gay couples. I mean, who cares? That's so boring! Now In the Heart of America: there's a play about gay people in the military. But it also considers something much more important: why we are over in Iraq in the first fucking place. For me, issues of queerness are only interesting as a part of or in the context of larger questions of history. This may seem a little strident, but whether or not Dan Choi is allowed to serve in the National Guard is so much less important than how many Iraqi civilians died today.

So, yes, this article made me miss the 1990s too.

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Ryan: I agree with you. I think this heteronormative construct is very scary and weird. What happened to activist theatre? I like what you are saying about Angels. It seems to take this global perspective while telling a very human story and in many ways very realistic story... Louis leaves Prior.... he tries to return and Prior ultimately reject him. No Tidy Ending (did I really just bust Fierstein into the conversation?). As I work on Angels, I continue to be amazed at how non-hetero it is in a positive way. It deconstructs (yes, I busted that word out... I’m probably using it wrong) a “romantic” narrative in a homo way.

Anyway, perhaps I’m “raving.” I’m just in love with the play.

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Anyone else have any thoughts on the Times piece?