Patrick Healy is becoming my favorite New York Times writer, but not because I always agree with him or think he's particularly "new" in his thinking or anything. Instead, it is because he has a way with stating the obvious that makes his point compelling and relevant. Yesterday's Theater section included an article by Healy about the upcoming season of shows that are opening that have gay characters and themes. Being a gay male myself, I was at least interested, though if you follow this blog you also know that I, in fact, get a little tired of the "gay thing" in every play or musical. I prefer my shows to be about the human experience, be it gay or straight, with less agenda and more compassion being shoved down my throat.
So, what does all of this have to do with theatre - this is a theater blog, after all. Well, let me first provide an example of "gay theater" that addressed my above point exactly. Plays like Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles both have drag queens as subjects, but neither show is about being a drag queen. It is about living life with a different bent, about love and acceptance of self and others, and being a part of a family. Universal themes to say the least, no? By virtue of the subject matter they are also political in nature; most plays really have a political undertone. But what made them successful is the universality through a unique filter. They opened eyes and minds to realizations that different is just that, not completely foreign.
All of these plays and musicals, past, present and future have gay characters as their subjects, but all of these topics could just as easily be written without gay characters, as straight people struggle with the same issues. By including gay characters though, the gay community is still out there making a point. But the politics focus everyone - gay and straight - in the right direction: we are all human. Perhaps that is the strongest political stance to take - people are people.
And, shock of shocks, it can be done without a Dorothy costume.
(Photos, top to bottom: Next Fall, La Cage aux Folles, and Yank!)
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