5 Queer Plays You Should Read

part of Pride Month, we present five queer plays that we love and you should too. First off, the biggie:

Angels in America by Tony Kushner

What it’s about:
Probably the great American play of the late 20th century. –Time Out

America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell.

Originally premiered in Britain at the National Theatre, London, where it won the Evening Standard Best Play Award, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America went on to win two Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

This volume contains both Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika, plus 45 pages of bonus material including a new introduction by the playwright, a full production history, deleted scenes, and notes on staging. It is published alongside a new production in 2017 at the National Theatre, London, directed by Marianne Elliott and starring Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, James McArdle and Russell Tovey.

‘The finest drama of our time, speaking to us of an entire era of life and death as no other play within memory. In its sweep and imagination, it defines the collapse of a moral universe during the Reagan years in an unforgettable way, transcending its specific time in the richness of its portrait of an America Lost, perhaps to be regained… it ranks as nothing less than one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century’ – New York Observer

Why You Should Read it:
This is Kushner’s masterpiece, which he, nor anyone else, has ever surpassed. 7+ hours in length, it’s a mammoth undertaking but it will reward you in ways too many to count. It’s about politics, relationships, AIDS, life, and death. Themes don’t get much bigger than that. Oh, and it’s funny, strange, magical and heart-wrenching. The famous dual “breakup” scene still remains one of the most technically astonishing things I’ve ever read. Oh, and I’m going to see it in London in a couple of weeks (I’M LITERALLY SO EXCITED AND I CANNOT WAIT!).

Fun Home: A Musical by by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tessori
fun home muscial
What it’s about:

WINNER! Best Musical – 2015 Tony® Awards!
WINNER! Best Score (Jeanine Tesori & Lisa Kron) – 2015 Tony® Awards!
WINNER! Best Book of a Musical (Lisa Kron) – 2015 Tony® Awards!
WINNER! BEST MUSICAL – New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Off-Broadway Alliance Award
FINALIST! The Pulitzer Prize for Drama

When her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life. Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home, her growing understanding of her own sexuality, and the looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden desires. Fun Home is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.

Why you should read it:
Alison Bechdel broke into the mainstream with the publication of her astonishing graphic novel, Fun Home, a memoir and her father and their relationship. As she says in the musical; “He was gay, and I was gay. He… killed himself. And I…. grew up to be a lesbian cartoonist”. I was a massive fan of this beautiful, tragic, wonderfully drawn (both literally and figuratively) story, so when I heard that they were making a musical of this, I was very excited and the team do a wonderful job of adapting it. The book and lyrics are fantastic and the depth and breadth of the music is glorious. You can listen to the Original Cast Recording of the musical here, ideally as you read along with this!

Bent by Martin Sherman
What it’s about:
Max is gay and sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He denies he is gay and gets the Jews’ yellow label instead of the pink one given to gays. In camp he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink triangle with pride. The subject matter of Bent – the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany – is highly charged and controversial. But it is, as Nicholas de Jongh described it in The Guardian, …a play of importance, power and pathos which should concern us all. In its subtle characterisation and powerful analysis of human dignity under extreme duress, it is a play that transcends the boundaries of its ostensible theme.

Bent took London by storm when it was first seen at the Royal Court Theatre, London, starring Ian McKellen and Tom Bell. It transferred via the Criterion Theatre to Broadway, where it received a Tony nomination for Best Play and won The Dramatists’ Guild Hull-Warriner Award. (Cast 11+m)

Why you should read it:
I remember seeing this about ten or so years ago in Dublin. I knew the director to see, and listened to him talking about the play afterwards. He said he loved that the first act was like a german sex comedy and then, much like the shock of the very liberal berlin being essential shut down and turned into something else over time, we are on the road, and soon in a concentration camp with Max and Horst. This play is beautiful, and sad, and funny, and unexpectantly erotic, and horrifying, and essential. Run, do not walk, if there’s a production near you, and if not, have a read of the play.

Scorch by Stacey Gregg
What it’s about:
Winner of a 2016 Fringe First.

For those who feel they’re not living the right life, online is a place to be yourself.

‘More real than real life. I’m honest on there. I’m being honest. That’s important.’

Out in the real world, though, things can be very different.

A touching and provocative story of first love though the eyes of a gender-curious teen, Scorch was inspired by recent UK cases of ‘gender fraud’.

Stacey Gregg’s play for a solo performer premiered at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival, Belfast, in 2015, co-produced by Prime Cut, MAC and Outburst. It won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best New Play and the Writers Guild of Ireland ZeBBie Award for Best Theatre Script. It was presented in Paines Plough’s Roundabout at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before touring Ireland.

Why you should read it:
I haven’t seen or read this, so I can’t speak to it from that angle, but it does sound fascinating. I remember the case of “gender fraud” where a woman took another woman to court, because she had pretended to be a man and they were in a sexual relationship. What is of more interest though is that this play, which has been well reviewed in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK and beyond, is a solo monologue (with the audience cast as members of the character’s support group) of a transgender teenager named Kes. Have you read or seen this? What did you think?

The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife and other plays by Charles Busch
What it’s about:
Charles Busch is renowned for weaving popular culture, wicked camp humor, and biting social satire into an unusual and uproarious theatrical signature that has earned him the Outer Critics’ John Gassner Award for Playwrighting and a Drama Desk Award for Best Play nomination. Of his latest play, The New York Times has written, “Uproarious . . . wall-to-wall laughs . . . Mr. Busch has swum straight into the mainstream and stays comfortably afloat there”.

Busch is the author of such plays as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom — one of the longest-running plays in Off-Broadway history — and Psycho Beach Party, a cross between Gidget and Spellbound. After a successful Off-Broadway run at New York City’s Manhattan Theater Club, Busch moves to Broadway with The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, a hilarious comedy about a self-absorbed Upper West Side doctor’s wife whose life is devoted to mornings at the Whitney, afternoons at the Museum of Modern Art, and evenings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Her world is shaken and transformed when a childhood friend makes an unexpected visit.

Why you should read it:
I first discovered Charles Busch when a friend told me about him, and then soon after I ended up watching the film adaptation of his play (included in this volume), Psycho Beach Party, which starred Lauren Ambrose (her from Six Feet Under) as a good girl who frequently goes bad in this fifties-styled surf movie gone wrong. And from there I fell in love. Whilst I haven’t read all of the plays in this volume, I would have no hesitation recommending Busch and his work, which is laugh out loud funny and often stars Busch himself in the leading female roles.



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