Given the exciting news from California (well, I think it's exciting, but, I also take this to heart and think there are a lot of valid, non-mainstream, points being made in this argument) and the impossibility (well, unless you have an incredibly doting grandmother, as it turns out, I do) of getting tickets to the Angels in America revival (which indicates a mainstream-ization - I might coin that phrase for this blog, unless it's already been coined - of what used to be a fairly taboo subject, even if it's a mainstream-ization among people who are now just more allowed to be considered mainstream, i.e. gay men in the theatre community, which may or may not be the case), it seems appropriate to write about queerness (and I mean that in the most radical usage of the word) in this post.
I could pick a specific musical to riff on right now, but, to steal a friend of mine's response to my one time assertion that I was playing "gay softball", when it comes to "gay musical theatre" - is there any other kind? There's so much to talk about in connecting gay culture and identity to musical theatre that one could write a book or teach a class (my friend took that class at University of Michigan once), but that's not really what interests me. Because, in all of these instances, when I'm saying gay, I'm refering predominantly to gay MEN. The connection between gay MEN and musical theatre is lost on very few (perhaps only on some in the Mormon community, where I hear musical theatre is very, very popular, but I'm pretty sure gayness is not). The connection between gay women, or lesbianism, or whatever word is most comfortable to you, and musical theatre seems much less present in the cultural forefront.
In writing this post, I tried to think of some prominent queer ciswomen (I was confused the first time I read "cisgender" on a blog, no worries, click here) who are stars of the musical theatre stage, or who are featured prominently in musicals as characters...or featured at all...where is Alvin in La Cage Aux Folle's* feminist counterpart? And, what does the absence of these images say about the role of queer womyn in America as a whole?
Obviously, I'm not the first person to think about this, and in searching for more examples than I could think of off the top of my head I found this article, which lists all of the shows that came to my mind and then some (including RENT, The Color Purple, and Legally Blonde - which actually, I don't take credit for remembering Enid's character, but am highlighting it because I find myself completely agreeing with Ben Brantley's comment about the jokes made at Enid's expense, referenced in the article, and that's not something that happens every day).
And, then there's the issue mentioned in the article about women kissing for exhibitionist thrill. I saw this tactic most recently in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (which I know a lot of people loved, and probably will be the subject of its own post at some point given my strong feelings about it). The conceit of Bloody, Bloody is (I think) going so far past the line of acceptable as to make it clear that one can be doing nothing BUT commenting on (and in no way perpetuating through representation) things that are heinous. But, I wonder, in a medium where a legitimate, non-spectacle, loving kiss between two women is as scarce as justice for the Native Americans, if having a moment where a chauvinist character commands to "hot" women to kiss for his enjoyment can really be considered that far-fetched.
Anyway, my point, as a queer woman devotee of musical theatre, I frequently feel left out of the LGBTQ lovefest that musical theatre is purported to be. And, I'm wondering what other people think and feel. Where are the queer women in musical theatre? Am I the only one who sometimes feels like it's a boys club? Am I missing really cool examples of queer women in musical theatre? And, what do we as a community of creators and fans do to make musical theatre (and all theatre) as queer friendly as one would believe it to be standing in the box office line at the Signature Theatre this past Tuesday?
*I know, Wikipedia's not actually a legitimate source, but in these instances it gets the job done.