Queer Theatre (2009)

This course will combine textual analysis of plays and performance art with a consideration of queer performance practice and production. We will pose a number of questions to the plays we read and see, which will include the following: How does the play’s/performance’s structure and form help to deliver its content? What kind of spectator is assumed to make the text “fully” intelligible? Is full understanding ever truly possible, with any text, by all spectators? Why do some plays “succeed” and others don’t? What is it about specific production contexts and modes of production (meaning the way performance practices intersect with economic, social, geographical, and political issues) that facilitate “success” on what terms? What is it that makes certain kinds of queer theatre—by Terrence McNally, Tim Miller, Craig Lucas, and other mostly male queer performers/playwrights, although Paula Vogel could in some ways be included here—“successful” according to conventional terms? What keeps other kinds of queer performance “subcultural” or “marginal” to some presumptive dominant? Is it possible to sustain subcultures in a moment in which capitalism saturates our lives?

The other set of questions we’ll address will look at the intersecting vectors of gender/sexuality/race and other complex identity categories, for their implications as overlays on a text’s form, structure, content, and address. How salient is identity in which production contexts? Can we assume that the identity of the playwright is a sufficient (or even partial) lens through which to ask questions about form, structure, content, address, and modes of production? We’ll consider our own spectatorial and readerly identities to be fluid, to help us better pose questions about how identity frames the creation and reception of a performance/play text.

Likewise, the current moment offers a relatively great deal of visibility for gay and lesbian subjects in performance, the media, film, television, and other forms of representation. Recent political issues—gays in the military, gay marriage, debates over adoption for gay families, and citizenship for queer internationals—have brought attention to issues and ideas once considered far off the radar of heteronormative culture. How does queer performance take up these issues and what can queer theory tell us about how to “read” and act on them? How can theory be a tool not only for performance, but for activism? How can this current visibility be pressed into the service of a more radical queer political program than the right to marry? Or is visibility itself a kind of trap that precludes an “outlaw” stance?

Finally, we’ll look at how emotion works in our response to plays (on the page and on the stage), looking at “feeling” as a method of passionate engagement with culture, politics, and life as read through expressive culture.

[Download the full course syllabus as a PDF document].

 

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