In , despite a social climate of homophobia that pervaded American life for the second third of the 20th century, two one-act plays presented Off-Off-Broadway at the Caffe Cino revolutionized how gay characters could be represented theatrically. The Celebration Theater in L. These plays marked a major cultural turning point, considering the outright censorship that gay playwrights faced in the preceding decades. However, after out-of-town tryout runs, the play received a scandalous reception. A few years later, the Hays Code of banned images of homosexuality on the Hollywood screen. Consequently, censorship of gay themes in theater and film was the norm in the U.
A Brief History of Gay Theater, in Three Acts
The Gay and Lesbian Theatrical Legacy
Gay and lesbian drama is generally regarded as a contemporary phenomenon, denoting those plays specifically written or performed by homosexuals for a largely homosexual audience and therefore concerned with the social, political, and personal ramifications of being a member of the sexual minority; as such, it is deemed to have come into fruition as a specific genre in the late s as a result of the increasing freedom derived from the gay liberation movement. However, if one counts those plays and characterizations depicting any aspect of homosexual life, one needs to look back as far as the late s. Once the concept itself developed through the work of early psychologists such as Richard Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, and Sigmund Freud and became part of public consciousness, homosexuality began appearing onstage, albeit usually covertly. Initial depictions necessarily considered homosexuality an exotic and somewhat frightening mental illness, whose cause was unknown, but whose effect was shameful and destructive.
Gay and Lesbian Theater
The Gay and Lesbian Theatrical Legacy collects in a single volume biographies of more than one hundred notable figures whose careers flourished in the years before the Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement in the United States. The leading lights in American theater have included innumerable individuals whose sexualities have deviated from prevailing norms, but this history has until recently been largely unwritten and unknown. This book contributes significantly to the recovery of this history, fashioning a much fuller, more nuanced portrait of American theater as it evolved and shedding light on the influence that sexual desire may have had on professional choices, relationships, and artistic achievements. The Gay and Lesbian Theatrical Legacy collects biographies and portraits of influential actors, playwrights, composers, directors, designers, dancers, producers, managers, critics, choreographers, and technicians who made their mark on the American theater. Its broad coverage provides an extended glimpse into lives and careers that intersected and into networks of affiliation that made theatrical history and, by extension, social and cultural history.
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