Not in Front of the Audience: Homosexuality on Stage

Not in Front of the Audience: Homosexuality on Stage

Not in Front of the Audience: Homosexuality on Stage

Not in Front of the Audience: Homosexuality on Stage

Synopsis

A pioneering study of the theatre's treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality from the 1920s to the present day. Only in the 60s did theatres confront heterosexual prejudice and in the wake of AIDS, the issue is once again highly charged.

Excerpt

This study attempts to explore a neglected terrain. It considers how the theatres of London and New York treated the subject of homosexuality and depicted homosexuals in the course of over half a century. I have not included lesbians and lesbianism within the ambit of this study since I felt that such a pioneering study deserved and required the attention of a woman rather than a man.

I wanted to investigate the ways in which playwrights, actors and directors were influenced by prevailing mythic constructions of homosexuality as the epitome of evil, danger and corruption, and how such constructions were destroyed and replaced in the aftermath of Gay Liberation. But the theatre's treatment of homosexuality was a microcosm of its governing attitudes. It promoted plays of rigid orthodoxy, driving home messages of political, social and sexual conformity to the status quo. Between 1925 and 1956 the playhouses of both theatre capitals preserved the notion that the stage was frivolity's medium-evening escapism for the leisured and richer classes. The play was a version of Christian morality in which vice was always put down and the theatre of happy endings tended to reign supreme.

Since the playhouses were controlled by business syndicates and commercially motivated impresarios, a theatre of dissent barely existed. The businessmen all promoted the ideology of the ascendant classes. And since the playhouses in both London and New York were, until the 1960s, subject to a close form of censorship which forbade the depiction of homosexuals on stage or even the discussion of homosexuality, those rare dramatists who wished to challenge the ban or to

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