LGBTQ Theatre

“Absolute Hell” at The National Theatre

Rodney Ackland must be the most well-known forgotten man in postwar British theatre. His legend goes like this: Absolute Hell was originally titled The Pink Room, and first staged in 1952 at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it got a critical mauling. The Sunday Times’s Harold Hobson said that the audience “had the impression of being present, if not at the death of talent, at least at its very serious illness.” Hurt by such criticism, Ackland fell silent for almost four decades. Then, as he struggled against leukemia in the 1980s, he rewrote the play. Produced by the Orange Tree Theatre in 1988, it...

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“Still Point Turning” is a Vital Affirmation of Trans People Through the Story of Catherine McGregor

“The unifying trans experience is rejection and repudiation.” So says Cate McGregor’s character in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story. This one line summarises a sad reality of life for trans and gender diverse people. Despite coming from different cultural, religious and class backgrounds; despite there being so much diversity of opinion and politics; and despite expressing their gender identities in so many ways; what unites them is having experienced stigma and denigration. It is for this reason that writer and director Priscilla Jackman decided to dramatize the life of Cate McGregor, who...

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Composer-in-Residence Clint Borzoni

My current collaborator, John de los Santos, approached me about Adonis after I had just finished the first orchestral reading of my first full length opera, Antinous and Hadrian, which was originally conceived of in the American Opera Projects Composer and the Voice Series and later commissioned by Operamission.  John told me he had this libretto that he had constructed based on select poetry by American poet, Gavin Dillard.  I asked “what are we composing this for?” to which John replied, “I don’t know.”  But, it was his initial passion, and he came up with the concept to create this new form of opera.  However, this piece, at first, was a stretch for me as a composer.

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“Fun Home” By The Musical Stage Company As Part Of The Off Mirvish Series

Emotionally moving for its’ superlative vocal work and outstanding individual performances The Story I must admit that I knew nothing about Fun Home, so I had to do some online research, scan the Mirvish press release, and read the program. Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home is the recipient of several awards including 5 New York Tony Awards (Best Musical in 2015). In 2006, The New York Times named Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic as one of the best books of the year. It was created from memories of Ms. Bechdel’s childhood and the detailed journals she kept since age 10...

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“Vincent River” at The Park Theatre: In-yer-Face Theatre at Its Cruel Best

Every great playwright has to have both an identifiable style and the ability to innovate and change. When genius polymath Philip Ridley first staged Vincent River at the Hampstead Theatre in 2000, his fans noted that this two-hander was more naturalistic than his previous surreal and gothic East End trilogy—The Pitchfork Disney, The Fastest Clock In The Universe, and Ghost From A Perfect Place—and more political too. From leftfield to the mainstream. Watching it today it is clear that this brilliant drama, which was also revived in the West End with Lynda Bellingham in 2007, has all the hallmarks of Ridley’s best work...

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“Kumar50”: The Star of the Singapore Drag Scene

Marking Kumar’s 50th year alive, and the start of Dream Academy’s 2018 season at the Capitol Theatre, Kumar50 is a celebration, a retelling of history, but most of all, a show meant to entertain — Kumar is the undisputed queen, and star, of the Singapore drag scene. Kumar50 is also here to make some money: Dream Academy is, notably, one of the very few arts companies in Singapore that runs on a for-profit model. This is not, by far, the first time the two entities have worked together. Kumar50 is the fifth show (eighth if you include re-runs) headlining...

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A Place To Be Seen: Global Queer Plays At The Arcola Theatre

On March 3 and 4 2018, the Arcola Theatre in East London presented Global Queer Plays, a series of rehearsed readings of LGBTQ+ plays in translation or from the parts of the English-speaking world less represented on UK stages. In this personal reflection on the event, translator and member of the festival’s team William Gregory describes the context of the festival, its story, and his hopes for its future. The Arcola Queer Collective was established in 2014. As part of the community engagement activities of the Arcola Theatre in the east London borough of Hackney, it seeks to involve...

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Divine Comedy Festival 2017 Review: “Cezary Goes To War”

Cezary Goes To War [Cezary Idzie Na Wojnę], an autobiographical piece directed by Cezary Tomaszewski, is a musically charged queer fantasia that directly and cheerfully attacks and deconstructs the military rhetoric and nationalistic ethos in Poland. As part of the Komuna//Warszawa (a critically acclaimed experimental theatre company based in Warsaw) series Before the War/War/After The War, Tomaszewski devises this dance-music-performance piece based on his personal experience with the army conscription committee, during which he was categorized based on the military standard of masculinity. He draws on the absurd official language of the definitions of each category (usually a long list of...

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Still Unsettling: The Continuing Power of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart”

Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is a play fueled by anger. Anger at the political, medical and media establishment of the day for its reluctance to accept the reality of a mounting AIDS epidemic. Back in 1985, Kramer made enemies on all sides with a play that is an only slightly fictionalized account of his real-life efforts in New York City to awaken the prevailing culture — including a gay, closeted mayor —  to the reality of the frightening plague enveloping it. And because it takes no prisoners in its indictment, it remains perhaps the most unsettling play to...

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I Wanted To Remove The Language Of Gender: Hindi Adaptation of Lorca’s “Yerma”

Mahesh Dattani explores the symbolism, futurism and surreal influences of Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca by directing a Hindi adaption of Yerma. The Drama School Mumbai’s annual production, which showcases their current batch of 14 students, is a take on Federico García Lorca’s Yerma, rechristened Maati in this Hindi adaptation by Neha Sharma, directed by noted playwright Mahesh Dattani. In conversation with The Hindu, Dattani talks about the queer themes that he has explored in the play. Why did you select Yerma? Jehan (Maneckshaw) had suggested we do a classic this time. He was keen to do Karnad’s Taledanda, but I was really struck by Yerma. I had caught...

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Look How Far We’ve Come: Dan Gillespie Sells On LGBTQ History Month UK

February was the LGBT History Month UK. It’s 30 Years since the passing of Section 28, the legislation that made it illegal to “promote homosexuality” or “promote ‘teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.” That was MY family they were talking about! I’m what you could call the second generation gay. My lesbian mothers raised me in the 1980’s and 90’s in London at the beating heart of the lesbian and gay rights movement. The results of the fight my mothers and the LGBT community made are that today I’m able to marry, have children and...

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Queer Collective–Reflections Of The World

A blog by Rach Skyer for UK Theatre to mark LGBT History Month. Producer and Actor Rach Skyer is a member of the Arcola’s Queer Collective, a performance collective exploring queer identity and how to present it theatrically. The group is open to anyone identifying as LGBTQI* in East London. The theatre is about truth. The stories we tell are reflections of the world–or at least the world as we understand it. With that in mind, theatre-makers must interrogate the industry to question who benefits from the stories, which voices are missing and how we can disrupt the current state of affairs. In approaching queer...

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The Focus Is On The Power Of Those On The Margins: 33 Performances, Representing 14 Countries

The 10th edition of ITFoK touches upon diverse themes such as gender, identity, displacement, and sexuality among other subjects. Those living on the margins are not always powerless. Neither are their lives empty. They often come up with powerful statements of their existence and their voices are strong and sharp. And they find expressions through all forms of creative expression, especially theatre. The 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organized by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), brought to the theatre audience of Kerala a fine cross-section of the voices from the margins that seek their expression through the...

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“As One” – A New Biographical Opera About Transgender Experience Premiers in Boston

Saturday night at Longy School of Music’s Pickman Hall, As One had its Boston Premiere in the skilled hands of Boston Opera Collaborative.  As One, an insightful, 80-minute journey based on the life of a real transgender woman, will likely continue being produced by similar companies not only because of its topical nature, but because it requires minimal production values; only two singers, a string quartet, and projections. The audience never knows Hannah’s childhood name.  The characters are simply “Hannah Before” and “Hannah After.”  Instead of a split show, with the baritone singing the first half and the mezzo soprano...

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“Millions Of Seconds” by Diego Casado Rubio: On Being Transgender in Argentina

The desired body vis a vis tradition, and institutional normative sedimentation.  Millions Of Seconds, written and directed by Diego Casado Rubio, and with the excellent performances of María Rosa Frega (Clarisa, the Mother), Raquel Ameri (Alan) and Víctor Labra (Samson, the dog), was performed at the Teatro el Extranjero de Buenos Aires, during 2017 (38 performances) and will continue in 2018. The play was awarded in the areas of direction, playwriting and spatial design-stage (Casado Rubio), acting (Ameri and Frega), lighting (Verónica Alcoba), costumes (Vessna Bebek), and photography (Juan Borraspardo). Awards for Best Director, Best Actress (Ameri) and Best Photographer. Ameri also won the Audience Award and the Prize for Best Leading...

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The Pointed Irreverence Of Konstantin Bogomolov’s “An Ideal Husband: Comedy”

June 12 is Russia Day, a day of patriotic celebration that is the rough equivalent of America’s Fourth of July. While much of the capital was given over to flag-waving and fireworks, the Moscow Art Theatre was performing Konstantin Bogomolov’s production of An Ideal Husband: Comedy–less a staging of the Wilde classic than a manic hallucination about contemporary Moscow—to an enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd, a counterpoint to the official festivities. While Bogomolov, one of Moscow’s enfants-terribles, retains hardly any of Wilde’s text (a favorite complaint of critics), his production offers a searing exploration of the intersections of power, sexuality, and...

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Subjects For Some Short Stories: Acting Character In Postdramatic Chekhov

Twenty years after the Wooster Group’s seminal Three Sisters-inspired Brace Up!, contemporary New York theatre ensembles Half Straddle and New Saloon put their own postmodern bent on Chekhov’s canonical plays in their respective works Seagull (Thinking Of You) (2013) and Minor Character (2017). These productions, like the Wooster Group’s, use Chekhov as their origin point but differ in dramatic form and performance style. They exist in the same ecosystem of downtown or “experimental” New York and were each developed and performed by a theatre company of at least three collaborators who have worked together extensively before their Chekhov explorations....

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A Mountain of One’s Own: “Taking the High Ground” by Jan Bolwell

Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to climb Mount Everest in May 1953, New Zealanders have bathed in the reflected glory of their famous mountaineers. The five dollar banknote depicts the craggy, taciturn Hillary contemplating a snowy peak, an iconic New Zealand image that equates rugged independence with masculinity. Jan Bolwell’s new play Taking the High Ground, premiered at BATS Theatre, Wellington on 5 December 2017, re-genders the national mountaineering mythology in feminist terms.  Her script conflates the stories of two female mountaineering “firsts” – In 1910, Australian Freda du Faur was the first woman...

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Why Do We Hate?: Censoring the Minority 2017

Namsan Arts Center’s 2017 season opened with Censoring the Minority 2017 (written and directed by Lee Yeon-joo), a revival of a production that was originally part of the Project for Right 2016 festival. Many wondered if the piece would be relevant outside of the Project for Right initiative, as the context changes depending on whether it is staged among a series of productions about censorship or presented on its own. As I did not see the premiere, I am unable to compare the quality of the two versions. Yet I saw no problem in staging Censoring the Minority separately....

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A Living Mockery: The Ridiculous Theatrical Company At Fifty

In 1967, not one but two productions of Charles Ludlam’s deliciously demented Conquest Of The Universe Or When Queens Collide mounted by rival queer, avant-garde theater companies opened downtown in New York. What a time to be alive. The single, originally planned production was to have been a collaboration between then-twenty-four-year-old Ludlam and director John Vaccaro, but the two quarreled, resulting in a schism. Henceforth Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous and Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company would operate independently, the former more closely aligned with the personalities and glam-sleaze aesthetic favored by Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd. Their production at the...

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