Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview
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MARTIN SHERMAN (1938–)

Dean Shackelford


BIOGRAPHY

Born in Philadelphia in 1938, Martin Sherman has spent most of his adult life in London. He studied at Boston University. After attempting to become established as a playwright in New York City, he moved to London. There he felt he would be able to gain more respect and to rebel against what he perceived as the cold climate of the New York theater community. In 1979, he achieved wide acclaim and recognition over the Holocaust drama Bent, a study of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Of late, he has written screenplays, including an adaptation of Bent for film, and continues to live in London, where he feels there is a more congenial atmosphere for playwrights than in the United States.


MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES

The dominant theme of Sherman’s canon is the outsider in an intolerant society. This theme is especially evident in Bent, the 1979 stage sensation. Throughout the play Max, the main character, comes to terms with his identity as a gay man—after pleading for the life of his companion with whom he has fallen deeply in love while in Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp. Bent premiered at a time in the history of gay representation in theater when few positive and/or nonstereotypical gay characters appeared. As Sherman states in an interview, “At the time I wrote Bent it was important to declare yourself as a gay writer” (Raymond 102).

As a play, Bent combines tragedy and history in such a way as to comment on what was at that time a little known fact of the Holocaust: the common imprisonment and persecution of homosexuals by the Nazi regime. As the play opens in Berlin, Max picks up Wolfgang Granz, an attractive young blond and military

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