something interesting to me is how broadway, and american theater in general, has for many, many years been painted as this space that’s incredibly welcoming to lgbtq+ people. and that’s definitely true, to a certain extent. the contributions of non-cishet people to theater and even just the art of performance itself in modern america are immeasurable. it’s so pervasive that just about any guy who performs in theater faces those jokes about how he must be gay. everyone just sort of associates theater with this sort of inherent queerness, or at least gay-friendly idealism. (whether they associate it with that in a positive or negative way depends on the individual.)
yet the stories that we see played out on stage are overwhelmingly cisgender and heterosexual.
think about it: even though a relatively very high proportion of actors in theater are lgbtq+, the number of actual, canon lgbtq+ characters is shockingly low.
there’s a few standouts, of course. la cage aux folles. rocky horror. rent. falsettos. still, with the hundreds of musicals that have been on broadway stages, especially given the involvement of all these lgbtq+ people, wouldn’t you expect more?
did you know when the first broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist debuted?
2015. it was fun home. that was the first.
it’s gotten a bit better in the past few years, but…not by much. of the past 10 winners of best musical, only 2 (fun home and billy elliot) have a main character who isn’t straight. (i do have to give a nod to kinky boots, which does heavily feature lgbtq+ stuff, but is ultimately centered around a straight cis dude.)
these musicals might have gay characters, but they’re almost always 1. side characters, 2. the butt of jokes, or 3. both.
don’t we deserve better than this? the lgbtq+ community has helped musical theater thrive for decades. don’t we deserve to see our stories represented up on stage just like everybody else? our love, our lives? we can rehash two straight people falling in love in a billion different ways, but we barely get to see ourselves in any capacity onstage at all. for the love of god, we have more talking cats on broadway than trans people.
on here, i keep seeing these few ships–glinda and elphaba, connor and evan, elder price and elder mckinley–overwhelmingly shipped by lgbtq+ kids desperate for absolutely any sort of representation. (there’s always straight girls who love to ship two cis men together just because, but that’s an entirely different issue.) young people like us–we’re almost always reduced to subtext and sheer hope. why? don’t we deserve more than this?
our community has given so much. let the stage love us back.
I want them to just try to pull an Oscars-type mess up on Patti LuPone at the Tonys.
“The winner is Patti Lu….oh oh sorry it’s Bette Midler. ”
No way she’d give that award back. She’d take batting practice in your dressing room. She’d evil eye you so hard that you’d be unborn back into your mother’s womb. Somehow you’d find yourself locked out at the next Equity meeting. All Italian restaurants would refuse to serve you. Next time you’re performing, a stage light mysteriously crashes down from the rafters.
Run away with me. Stay in a cheap, outdated hotel with me because that’s the only place we can afford, and drive down the car-infested highways with me in a beat up old van and park in the middle of an dark, empty field with me and lay a blanket on the hood and let’s gaze at the diamond-encrusted sky for a couple of hours. The world is our movie theater, the fireflies our actors, the clouds our scenery, our eyes the cameras. Dance with me in the rain, and roll the windows down to let the summer breeze dry our clothes as we race down the back roads.
Drive into the city with me. Let’s explore the dirty sidewalks of this concrete jungle and take pictures of our sparkling eyes and unkempt hair that glow in the light of the neon signs. Wear your fanciest clothes with me, and let’s have a night on the town window shopping and and dancing and telling secrets and pretending to own the world. We can’t afford to eat anywhere but the cheap diner with the crappy coffee, but we pretend like we’re in a 5-star restaurant, and with our imaginations, it is one.
Travel up the mountains and across the rivers with me. Let’s climb until our arms are sore and sunburnt, swim until our legs ache, and explore until we know every nook and cranny of the earth like the backs of our hands. No mountain is too high and no valley too low and no plain too wide when we explore together. We might not be able to afford fancy clothes and expensive things, but these kind of mind-broadening experiences are free and worth more than all the lamborghinis and louboutins in the world.
Run away with me. I promise you won’t regret a thing.