The Gay White Way

THE THEATER HAS LONG BEEN A HAVEN FOR GAY artists provided they addressed straight topics. But in 1993, gay characters and stories abruptly took center stage. After decades on the fringe, gay-themed works enjoyed lavish Broadway productions that were embraced by mainstream heterosexuals. The trend really peaked this year, said John Harris, editor of Theater Week. All the hot properties seem to be gay.

1993-20 (27K)
Broadway’s best musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman, merged a homoerotic love story with homage to bygone movies viewed from a campy gay perspective. The year's ablest comedy, The Sisters Rosensweig, sympathetically portrayed a bisexual man who romances one of the title siblings, then leaves her because he prefers men. The season's foremost drama, Angels in America [whose first part, Millenium Approaches, opened in May, 1993, and was followed by the second part, Pere-stroika, in November] positioned the gay experience at the center of America’s political and spiritual identity.

 Angels, the seven-hour epic subtitled A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, was the first gay-centered play to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama. The runner-up was the best show of the off-Broadway season, the equally gay and angry memoir of AIDS activist Larry Kramer, The Destiny of Me. A decade ago, the theater establishment collectively winced when its vital self-advertisement to Middle America, the telecast of the Tony Awards, opened with a best-play prize to the flamboyant Harvey Fierstein for Torch Song Trilogy.

In 1993 virtually every Tony category featured shows with gay elements. Among the other contenders: Lynn Redgrave's one-woman Shakespeare for My Father, which alluded to the bisexuality of Sir Michael Redgrave, and the rock opera Tommy with its homosexual, pedophile uncle. Broadway had welcomed gay material before. But a breakthrough in unabashed candor and commercial viability came with 1992's best musical, Falsettos, which centered on a father who leaves his wife and son to take up with a male lover who dies of AIDS. While it sounds grim, the show was in large part a cheerfully neurotic comedy; its mordant wit in the face of death is yet another index of a gay aesthetic. The producers shrewdly emphasized the show’s celebration of families of all kinds in testimonial ads touting it as fit for rabbis and priests, Midwestern tourists and suburban firemen. Having long since turned a profit on Broadway, Falsettos launched a once unimaginable national tour.

What accounted for the surge? The gay civil rights movement, for one thing. The theater has always been home to a disproportionate share of gay artists because the environment was tolerant and, perhaps, because their lives already involved illusion, role playing and disguise. Many artists have come out of the closet in life and insist on doing so in their work. In addition, AIDS has given gay male play-wrights a clarity and tenacity of vision.

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D.U.O Project
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Church of the Science of GOD, 1993
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