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Arts & Culture

An unofficial history of our struggling gay theater scene

Photo: Sarah Maspero, License: N/A

Sarah Maspero

The cast of Corpus Christi, playing at San Pedro Playhouse.



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However, since my return to San Antonio in 2001 after 20 years in Los Angeles, I have seen projects that tackle difficult gay themes. Paul Bonin-Rodriguez in his Texas Trinity cycle chronicled the life and times of a gay Latino man. Jump-Start produced the critically acclaimed local premiere of The Laramie Project. Under creative director Frank Latson and executive director Di Ann Sneed, the San Pedro Playhouse staged Tony Kushner’s Angels in America on their main stage. Gay-themed plays also found the welcome mat out in the SPP’s Cellar Theater, where productions have included the brilliant Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde directed by Diane Malone; Doug Wright’s Pulitzer-winning I Am My Own Wife; Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out; and many others.

The brouhaha over Corpus Christi offers an opportunity to reassess how far gay theater has come locally. Some argue that gay theater per se doesn’t have an audience here: Corpus Christi is a fluke that might have quickly faded without the media attention and protesters. Granted, theaters have to sell tickets, but do some use that excuse for programming fewer gay-themed productions, or only those that play on stereotypes? Casting gay parts has led some directors to audition out of town for actors. Is it homophobia or merely a benign patronage system that fails to recognize a new breed of theatergoers? Whatever the reason or reasons, local gay theater, despite a few progressive strides, still comes up short.

For those who claim there is no gay theater, signs to the contrary are everywhere. Nationally, a new generation of theatergoers is flocking to shows that not only explore political and health issues in the LGBTQ community but also the hot-button issues of gay marriage and gays in the military, as well as everyday concerns in a gay context. And for an informed citizenry, it’s important to both support and write those dramas and comedies that heal and inspire. We are everywhere. We’re here to stay. Theater isn’t just for gays anymore. It’s a necessary lifeline for all of us. •

 

Gregg Barrios is a San Antonio playwright whose play Rancho Pancho, hailed by New York theater critic John Lahr, will receive its first equity production this summer at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque during its Tennessee Williams Centennial Celebration.

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