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This week we have been taking a look at LBGT Theatre and Entertainment in America. We have read and watched about the many hurdles of this community as they have sought to gain a level a respect, acceptance and non-discrimination in our national behavior and conversation. The events in Laramie Wyoming and Mathew Shepard was a watershed moment for this nation. Perhaps you may not remember those events now, some 15 years later. You may have been to young to have been really aware of the Shepard events or wherever you were in 1998. However, we can clearly see that those events helped mark a change for our nation. We can see that there has been a great change in our feeling toward the LGBT community, their history, issues and individuals and their present place in our public and political discourse. We have also seen a drastic degree of change in the way we feel about entertainment and the Arts with respect to the LGBT lifestyle. Do you remember when Ellen DeGeneres was almost too taboo to have on T.V.? Or Will and Grace? How far have we come since the mid and late 1990’s with the way we, as a society, feel about these issues? Today, the Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, Gay and Lesbian marriage is now legal in a growing number of states. In fact, the last two weeks have seen an additional states including Alabama, be added to the number of states allowing Gay Marriage. Movies and television that are heavily themed with LGBT issues are now box office gold and winning actors numerous accolades and awards. How many of you watch or like Modern Family? How about theImitation Game that was up for an academy award recently or The Danish Girl two years ago?
What we must remember is that we have had LBGT artists around for as long as there has been Art! For the Theatre we have had some of the most dynamic and historic works of plays and play writing created by Gay and Lesbian playwrights from previous era’s. Many of these playwrights have had such a strong force in their ability to capture the public with their work that have helped to move the political conversation of their nation in real and tangible ways.
Your assignment is to choose one playwright from this small list and do further research on that playwright.
This is a very short list of some very important gay and lesbian playwrights over the last 100 years.
Topics of discussion would be the persons history and background. How they came into being a playwright? You can discuss topics and themes that were important to the playwright and how being Gay or Lesbian influenced them and their Art in a positive or negative way. The nature of the playwrights world and society in terms political, social and religious view of the playwrights time and era that may have influence their art and storytelling. What impact did the playwright have on the overall public and political discourse about issues that may be considered LBGT? Would you like to watch a play by this playwright? Why or why not?
Your paper should be a minimum of two pages double spaced. You may include some pictures with your research. Proper formatting and spelling.
Oscar Wilde: Born in Ireland in 1854, Wilde was a self-proclaimed aesthete. His various poems, short stories, fairy tales, plays, dialogues and novels are some of the most highly regarded and notorious works of the nineteenth-century. Wilde achieved public success as a comic playwright, crowned by The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895. In that same year, Wilde was tried and found guilty of “homosexual offenses.” After his imprisonment, he wrote the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which is one of his most famous works.
Tennessee Williams: Beginning in Mississippi and known as Thomas Lanier Williams, Tennessee Williams was born in an Episcopal rectory and was doted on by his grandmother, grandfather (an Episcopal priest), mother and sister. It wasn’t until after college that he took on the name “Tennessee” and decided to become a writer. Much of what the public knew about his personal life was orchestrated by Williams himself, including the year he was born. “His devil-may-care attitude, bringing him fame and fortune as a playwright of sexuality and violence, really was a rebellion against his Puritan upbringing. Deep down, he was an intensely serious writer who saw his creativity as a gift and writing as a vocation”
Edward Albee: Albee was born in March of 1928 and was the adopted son of Reed A. and Frances Cotter Albee of New York. Albee’s contribution to the theatre community has not gone un-noticed. He has received three Pulitzer Prizes, one of which was for Three Tall Women. “In 2002, Albee won the Tony Award for Best Play for The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Through it all, Albee has not missed a step, continuing to teach, direct, and write new plays”. Some of his most famous works include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, The Zoo Story andThe Lady from Dubuque.
Tony Kushner: Kushner was born in New York to parents who were symphony musicians. At age two, the family moved to New Orleans after they inherited a lumber business, but Kushner returned to New York to attend college. He attended Columbia College and received a bachelor’s degree in medieval studies—his evident love for history carried over into some of his greatest works. He also received a Masters of fine Arts degree from New York University (NYU). “In his undergraduate and graduate years, he saw as many plays in Manhattan as he possibly could. During these years, he was in therapy to try to change his sexual orientation, but in 1981, he called his mother from a pay phone in New York to tell her he was gay” . Some of his most famous works include Angels in America, Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul.
Noël Coward: Coward was so influential that the name “Coward” has become synonymous with an English style. The style is reflected in silk gowns, sophisticated cigarette holders, upper-class accents, wit and sex appeal. “His plays reinforced image, and Coward was not averse to audiences confusing him with his leading male heterosexual characters”. Coward’s humor was found and written within common phrases that were perfectly timed, so the delivery itself was funny, not the words he used. Some of his most notable works include I’ll Leave It to You, Hay Fever, Easy Virtue and Private Lives.
Terrence McNally is an American playwright. He has received the Tony Award for Best Play for Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, as well as the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. McNally was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1996. Several of his plays have been turned into successful movies. He has a career spanning five decades, and his plays are routinely performed all over the world. His work centers around the difficulties of and urgent need for human connection. For McNally, the most important function of Theatre is to create community by bridging rifts opened between people by difference in religion, race, gender, and particularly sexual orientation.
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