The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman made me think I’d better write this because who knows I might be dead soon.
I mean we all might be.
Anyway I was listening to a recording of the The Producers and it suddenly struck me how hard it is to run a gay theatre, anywhere.
As you know I started a gay theatre many years ago called Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Anyway, I was just listening to The Producers, you know, trying to be nice, I really was trying to like it (I was!) and some of the songs are fun I guess, and then I realized that the whole of The Producers is about two things. It’s about a pair of loser producers who decide to put on the worst surefire piece of crap play ever -- one that will be a flop on Broadway for sure. And the two things they decide it should be, in order for it to be a real failure, are:
a) about Hitler
And all I could think of was – wow! So here I was, all these years, trying to run a gay theatre but to no avail. Because it is, unfortunately, the most impossible thing to do in the world. Because everyone thinks that ‘gay theatre’ is pretty much as awful as fascism.
Indeed, when I started the theatre many years ago, I wondered why so many gay musical theatre types hated me. Now I know why. It’s because the theatre has traditionally been a gigantic closet. It’s a place where men can be gay without being gay. Before Buddies in Bad times Theatre came along, an effeminate man could be an actor -- and his mannerisms would just mean that he was ‘flamboyant,’ or ‘expressive.’ But after Buddies in Bad Times opened in Toronto suddenly all the closeted gay actors were threatened because maybe the theatre wasn’t a place to hide anymore. Maybe the theatre was (god forbid!) actually a gay place.
Well I happen to think the theatre is a gay place. Because it is a place for lies. (Don’t let the avant-garde-ists tell you that theatre should be like real life; theatre has been claiming to be ‘real’ since the dawn time, but no one has ever succeeded in putting on a play that was real, or even doing real life in front of other people. As soon as the play starts, it’s fake, we know it’s fake, and that’s why we love it and can get lost in it.)
We learn how to lie from the theatre, and there’s nothing that gay men need to know more than how to lie. In the past, they used to lie about being gay. Now -- though they often admit to the man-kissing part -- they like to pretend we all want to be married, go to church, and adopt babies. (This is supposed to make being gay okay.)
Lesbians, of course, lie too. But the fact of the matter is that our culture is so sexist that when women lie about their sexuality it doesn’t matter as much as when men do. What if all the men were gay (the religious right really worries about this a lot) and there was no one to impregnate women anymore?
No more begetting.
And what if men weren’t strong and didn’t carry swords so they could kill lots of people -- sorry, I mean, so they could protect us all from evil?
Plato was right to be afraid of art, and artists, and theatre, and song.
And I do have to apologize to all those musical theatre fags for making it tough to stay in the closet.
I just wanted people to know how gay theatre really is.
But if Mel Brooks is right (and for sure he is!): people don’t really want to know.
So, what can I say?
I screwed up.