Hi! I’m Phoebe, and I am delighted to be a theatre practitioner involved in the Fabric of Life Project. As a bit of a history nerd myself (though certainly no expert!) as well as being bisexual, this project is right up my street! For my first blog post, I thought I would give you a taste of the sessions I have been running for the young people.
Over the last few sessions, we have played plenty of games and had lots of great discussions. I have also given a brief overview of how theatre, gender and sexuality interact, and how we might be able to use that as inspiration for the project.
First of all, I wanted to use things most people in the UK have experience of, that say a lot about Gender and sexuality: Pantomime, and Shakespeare. They also show two ends of the spectrum of theatre! In pantomime, we have two traditional characters that are usually played by people of the opposite gender: the Dame, and Principal Boy. The Dame, usually played by a man, uses feminine stereotypes for humour, but doesn’t necessarily hide “manly” physical traits, such as beards and a deep voice. This led into discussions about Drag Queens, and how they are both the same concept, but executed very differently. The Principal Boy, traditionally played by a woman is similar in that femininity is a huge part of this “male” character. It also leads into to homoerotic scenes as they fall in love with the principal girl…
Next to Shakespeare. The man himself may have been bisexual (Shall I Compare thee to a Summer’s Day was written about a man) and gender bending is in many of his plays. As women were not allowed to perform on the stage during his lifetime, all female characters would have been played by men, leading to the confusing man playing a woman playing a man! We also see gender ambiguous characters in Shakespeare – mystical creatures such as Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Ariel (The Tempest) have been played by both men and women, and could be of any gender. Finally, in Twelfth Night, we see Sebastian fall in love with Viola when she is presenting as Cesario – and seems to be attracted to both! Viola in turn, does not seem to have a strong preference to being seen as a man or a woman.
Alongside these discussions, we have watched lots of Youtube clips to get a taste of LGBT theatre, film and television – these are below, with some info on context. Enjoy!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8AukG8DyaI – “Still a Rose” an Equal Love interpretation of Romeo and Juliet (Trailer)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX1oa9maIAM – “Take Me or Leave Me” Rent – a love duet between two women in this iconic LGBT musical
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdmPoTTbigw – “Torch Song Trilogy” Trailer of the film based on the Broadway hit. Written and starring Harvey Fierstien.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwk75Fek3qs – “Kinky Boots” clip, based on the musical of the same name, about a drag queen and a shoes salesman team up.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMBil4FkLKc – “The Wizard of Oz” – Dorothy meeting the Cowardly Lion. This one is packed full – Judy Garland was a huge gay icon, “Friend of Dorothy” as a term for gay people, and effeminate characteristics of the Cowardly Lion.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3TEbOR9SyQ – “The Importance of Being Earnest” clip. Oscar Wilde was famously imprisoned for sexuality, with a lot of his writings having homoeroticism in them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlLno3iPKIE – Carol and Susan, Friends – At the time of airing this was revolutionary.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3Fo5rhbEM – Jack and Ianto, Torchwood – Ianto as being a representation of a less sterotypical bisexual man.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2gDLA3fWAI – Tara and Willow, Buffy – One of the first positive representations of lesbian relationships on network TV in the USA.
https://youtu.be/yZV6mHDuDS4 – Beth and Margaret, Brookside – First Pre-Watershed Lesbian Kiss on UK TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf2IWhtOk5Q – Sophia, Orange is the New Black – Breakthrough representation of a trans woman by a trans actress.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH8TktsdBCU&list=PLL2lDb-eVLsjzpJmj4iyZrqqjH742WPiu&index=13 – Dee, Coupleish -Episode of a Youtube series with a great discussion of what being non-binary can mean.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUpHbIPqoTQ – Queer as Folk Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7iP9gA4u9c – Cucumber Trailer
Both these shows were created by Russel T Davies – a great snapshot of how portrayals of gay men have changed.