Why We Need to Address the Lack of Lesbian Stories on Stage

Playbill Pride   Why We Need to Address the Lack of Lesbian Stories on Stage
 
Director Wendy C. Goldberg emphasizes how Broadway’s Indecent fills a conspicuous gap in the gay theatre canon.
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Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk in Indecent Carol Rosegg

Just this past Thursday, the cast and crew of Paula Vogel's play Indecent were notified that their remarkable producer, Daryl Roth, a woman who has always supported some of the most relevant plays of our time, would keep the play running through the first week of August. The original closing notice happened just days after the Tony Awards when the play, although critically hailed as one of the best of the season and garnering Tony Awards for director Rebecca Taichman and lighting designer Christopher Akerlind, was not performing well enough at the box office to justify the immense costs of running on the Rialto.

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However, the power of this piece could not be denied—demand went up, additional post-Broadway productions were announced, the first being at the top of 2018 at The Guthrie Theater—which I have the honor to be directing.

Indecent will continue through Pride month and beyond. It is Paula Vogel, herself, who has raised the issue that the LGBT canon of theatrical literature has been missing lesbian voices and experience for the majority of history. When we take a moment to revisit our history of LGBT theatre, it's true it is dominated by white gay men. Obviously, there are notable exceptions here, one of the most brilliant just coming in 2015 with Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tsori's Fun Home, where the coming of age of a young lesbian woman was not subtext, was not sidelined, and was not part of a larger heterosexual conversation. It was about recognizing the complexities of love, and loving women in a world where that is not considered the normative experience. Oh right, and there was the gay dad too, and that was important for our lead to track as she was coming to terms with her identity, but it was her story, a gay woman as the central character we were following and watching as she grew into her adult self.

As artistic director at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, where we have the honor of supporting eclectic and varied voices, there have been very few women writing about the lesbian experience. Some of our shining examples of LGBT work includes Julia Cho’s Durango, Josh Harmon’s Significant Other, Sam Hunter’s A Great Wilderness, and Basil Kreimendahl’s Orange Julius among many others. But perhaps only one play, in about 100 plays during my time, have explored the lesbian experience, and that would be Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half Life. As we move into a time when we are more aware of non-binary gender, with queer and increased trans stories being told onstage with courage and theatrical innovation, it is incredibly moving to me to see a producer commit to Indecent in an effort to build this legacy of lesbian storytelling.

Paula Vogel has called Daryl Roth “a warrior” and I would call Paula Vogel (who once told me her initials stood for piss and vinegar) a warrior as well, always telling the stories of our moment with humor and grace unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. This Pride month, let’s not forget these warriors and encourage an ongoing movement toward representation of the entire gay experience onstage. I know I'll keep up that commitment on my end.

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