The Girls on the Go: Glitter and Be Gay (and other thoughts on LGBT+ characters)
I can’t tell you definitively if life imitates art or vice versa, but I can tell you this: In life and art, the LGBT+ community has seen unprecedented progress in the United States. This means gay people like me are closer to equality and gay characters are more likely to be seen onstage.
Is everything perfect for LGBT+ people in the world or the theatre? No, but there are dedicated people trying to make a difference. Artists are no exception.
As I’ve mentioned before, quality representation of minority groups is crucial to creating ethical art. For some reason, characters who belong to marginalized groups tend to be written as bit parts or character roles, which led to the inception of The Girls on the Go.
Because I try to focus on female character roles, let me say this: Musical theatre (along with other media) has a long way to go when it comes to representing LGBT+ women.
This is one of many reasons why theatre artists need to champion new and high-quality work. That means paying for tickets and looking for shows outside of the Great White Way. If you are a patron of the arts, you ensure that more art can be made. This applies doubly for art about marginalized groups. You need to prove doubters and traditionalists wrong with your support of inclusive theatre.
There’s more potential for LGBT+ women in theatre than just Maureen and Joanne.
If you live in the New York City area, I sincerely hope you caught Fun Home before it closed at the Public Theatre. Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron created a beautiful show that sensitively captured the real-life story of cartoonist Alison Bechdel. A show about not one but two gay people, with a lesbian leading lady, garnered an extended run and glowing reviews.
Last summer’s Lesbian Love Octagon featured the eponymous lesbians as well as bisexual and trans* characters in a comedic ode to the late ‘90s without resorting to harmful stereotypes.
…And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are a character actress, you could be given the opportunity to play a queer character. As an out gay woman, this idea has never fazed me, but it has come to my attention that some straight people may be unaware or scared of ‘acting gay.’
If you’re straight and want to add a song like “I Like Girls” from Volleygirls to your repertoire, do it! Want to know the secret to playing a convincing gay character, from a real-life lesbian?
…There is no secret. You play to the truth of the character, just as you would in any other role. Gay actors do this all the time when they play characters who are straight.
There are so many different kinds of straight people in the world, so why wouldn’t there be diversity in the LGBT+ community? Not all gay men are flouncy, lisping drama queens. Not all lesbians are angry and butch. Trans* women are not drag queens.
Musical theatre is an art form that has been loved and created by LGBT+ people for decades, but now we have more opportunities to see our stories being told. You can be a part of that by writing, performing, and/or supporting theatre that tells stories from all walks of life.
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