As we observe Gay Pride Month...
Flashback to 1977: "Gays must work very hard to protect their cultural identity"
"I would hate it if gays ever, ever, ever become integrated into society, just like I think blacks and a number of other people would be wise not to be integrated into heterosexual society. They must get their rights and their equal opportunity but work very, very hard to protect their cultural identity."
--playwright Doric Wilson, who recently died, as interviewed by Gay Community News, January 1977
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Playwright Edward Albee defends his 'I am not a gay writer' remarks
National Public Radio's Morning Edition, 6/6/11
"Maybe I'm being a little troublesome about this," Edward Albee [said], "but so many writers who are gay are expected to behave like gay writers and I find that is such a limitation and such a prejudicial thing that I fight against it whenever I can." Albee was recently criticized for a speech he gave while accepting an award at the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards. Albee was presented with the Pioneer Award, meant to honor those who have broken ground for LGBT literature and publishing. In accepting the honor, Albee told the audience, "A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay....Any definition which limits us is deplorable." Some in attendance felt Albee's tone was inappropriate for the event and have said that creating and supporting work that is specifically gay is important to the visibility of the gay community. Albee [says] he has always fought for gay rights and points out that other artists are not put into such categories. Albee says he remembers being discriminated against by theater critics who knew about his sexuality early on in his career. He says when Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf debuted in the early 1960s some critics wrote in their reviews that Albee was likely portraying two gay couples. Now, at age 83, Albee says he's working on a new play. He isn't giving any details yet, but he says it explores various prejudices. "None of which, oddly enough, happens to concern being gay," he says, "but it concerns itself with prejudices that involve us a great deal more as a society."
> Watch Terrence McNally (who presented the award) and Edward Albee here. [15 mins]
Commentary: Denver has a gay theater again. But does it need one?
John Moore, The Denver Post, 5/15/11
Denver theater companies hate labels when they limit potential audience - "the black theater," "the Chicano theater," "the experimental company" - until they serve as useful tools for targeted marketing, media or grants. Naturally, they prefer to be seen as open to a communitywide audience. But not having self-identified companies homogenizes the identity of the theater community as a whole. Denver has been without a gay theater company since Theatre Group folded in 2008. In its heyday, it presented as many as eight gay-themed stories a year at its two theaters. Plays like "Corpus Christi," "Never the Sinner" and "Shakespeare's R&J" that no other company in town would touch. Many feared the demise of Theatre Group would mean the end of stories that spoke to the gay community (a reliable demographic for theater). But the opposite has come true. This year alone, 18 metro companies have scheduled musicals, dramas and comedies with gay themes or characters. Statewide, the list grows to include Colorado Springs' Theatre D'Art, Greeley's Union Colony Dinner Theatre and more. Even the cautious Denver Center has hosted the national tour of "Spring Awakening" for a second time, while its resident company is preparing the world premiere of "The Whale," the story of a dying, 600-pound gay father. So the presumed dictum, "Denver needs a gay theater company," has evolved into a healthy question: Does it, really?
For San Diego theater, "we don't have to limit ourselves to gay stereotypes"
KPBS Culture Lust blog, 5/13/11
It's no longer unusual to find a gay or lesbian character on television or in movies. "The Kids Are Alright" featured lesbian parents and won a Golden Globe. "Glee" is one of the most popular shows on television. The character of Kurt is gay and out to his peers. He's also one of the most popular characters on the show and, one could argue, gets all the best lines. More gay characters in mainstream media certainly represents progress. And yet, an argument is still being made for a theater devoted exclusively to telling the stories of the queer (LGBT) community. In San Diego, that theater exists in the form of Diversionary Theatre. Playwright and composer Thomas Hodges, 22, says that "Glee's" Kurt doesn't represent the whole of the LGBT community. "I think Kurt is a very important part of our culture right now and it's doing a lot of good. He's a strong gay character. But not everyone is as strong as him and not everyone is SO OUT as him. So there are other struggles." Hodges says those other struggles are often depicted on Diversionary's stage. "A lot of times theaters don't want to do gay plays or they don't want to do a play that is just gay or just lesbian. So to have a theater that comes from that focus is important. Those plays often speak for not just the queer community, but for all minorities." Thom Vegh founded Diversionary 25 years ago. Vegh staged Diversionary's first show on the floor of a gay disco. "It was electric. The people were hearing themselves and hearing about their experiences -- some of them for the first time and some for the first time in the theater." Today, Diversionary is a solid mid-level theater, with a permanent home and an annual budget of roughly $500,000. While every theater is struggling to attract audiences, executive director John Alexander said Diversionary must attract audiences beyond the LGBT community. "I have so much respect for the people who were fighting this in the '70s, when it wasn't an accepted cause. But I have to say that I'm excited we can make these themes universal and that we don't have to limit ourselves to gay stereotypes."
At Fort Worth opera company, telling gay stories for a universal audience
Dallas Voice, 5/20/11
What do you get when you combine the Mobius-strip music of Phillip Glass with the vulgar, passionate lyricism of gay poet Allen Ginsberg? Believe it or not, you get an opera. Ever since converting to a festival format four years ago, the Fort Worth Opera has established a rep for doing edgy, unusual opera -- new works with complex, modern (often gay) themes: gay composer Tom Pasatieri's dark Frau Margot, Jorge Martin's challenging, frank adaptation of gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas' Before Night Falls; the reimagining of an opera based on Angels in America. Up this time is Hydrogen Jukebox. Setting the Howl author's poems to music might seem like a foolish exercise, but actually, it's a natural fit. "Ginsberg really believed in the performative aspect of poetry, that poetry should live off the page," director Lawrence Edelson says. And "many of the issues he was struggling with in the '50s, '60 and '70s are among the same issues we still struggle with today," says Darren Woods, general director of FWO. For out cast members Jonathan Blalock and Dan Kempson, the work has personal significance. "I find it interesting that the portion of the opera that deals with a gay love story...is presented as just one story," Kempson says. "It speaks to a universality of love, not just presented as 'We're gay! Notice us!' It's as normal and as painful and as lovely and as beautiful as any love story." "I think it's wonderful Fort Worth Opera is brave enough to attack off-the-beaten path operas, both musically and topically," says Blalock, who also appeared in Before Night Falls. "It can be scary for a number of reasons, including financial, but the FWO has brought their audience along with them to the 21st century."