Tag Archives: Theatre

Queer+Trans Characters Take Center Stage In ‘Street Children’

Hollywood often casts cisgender actors to play transgender roles. For every LaVerne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and Jamie Clayton (Sense8), there’s a Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Jaye Davidson (The Crying Game) and even Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent).

Street Children, a new play to open in New York City, actually casts transgender characters to play transgender roles. That shouldn’t be a radical, transgressive act, but sadly it is.

The play is set in the West Village during the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis. After the death of their “house mother,” several queer and transgender people fight to maintain their chosen family. Between scenes, cast members vogue – an underground dance that originated in Harlem and is driven by queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC).

Street Children isn’t perfect. The writer and the director are both cisgender white women attempting to tell a QTPOC story. In many hands, that has been a recipe for disaster. However, the writer invited the queer actors and actresses to rewrite the script’s language and plot points. The story feels authentic as a result.

Street Children has partnered with local activist organizations to empower LGBTQ populations. For example, youth from the Ali Forney Center’s LEAP work readiness program received jobs as interns during the production. The play also partnered with the Trevor Project and the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Street Children also did the impossible: It attracted non-theatregoers to the theatre. Theatre is an expensive endeavor, with tickets to amateur shows running upwards of $20 or $30 (professional shows can run north of $100). Street Children is no exception. Student tickets are $18 and general admission tickets are $28. Despite the steep prices, the director noticed many members of the “vogue and ballroom scenes” in attendance – this means queer and/or transgender people of color, a generally marginalized community.

Will Street Children pave the way for more transgender stories? One can only hope. Perhaps the next show will be pioneered by transgender writers instead of cisgender ones.

Five Underground LGBT Musicals You Have To See

When you’ve watched Rent and Hedwig one too many times, here’s what you should see next.

1. Normativity

Don’t you hate it when your favorite gay and lesbian characters die? For no reason?

Young lesbian Taylor has had enough of the #BuryYourGays media trend – and Emily, a book character who has come alive, needs to convince her author not to spare her life. Love, hijinks and plot twists abound. If you’re straight, you won’t be after seeing Madeline Wolf do a stunning performance as Emily.


This meta musical will send your head spinning as you question the line between reality and fiction. Are you actually a book character? Or are you secretly an author? Can you be both? This philosophical bender is paired with a hilarious, upbeat score that will stick in your head for days.

Where to watch it: Normativity premiered July 2016 in New York at the New York Musical Festival. More NYC dates will be added soon.

2. Straight Outta Oz

A cross between The Wizard of Oz and Beyonce’s Lemonade, this haunting retelling is darker, funnier and more honest than anything L. Frank Baum had in mind. Broadway star Todrick Hall created this musical to detail his personal journey as a gay artist.

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The tone of the show varies wildly. One minute, you’ll feel goosebumps as a deranged Wizard sings, “Pay no attention/To the man behind the curtain/He’s a brainless, heartless coward.” The next, you’ll be dancing with drag queens to electronica: “Hello, I’m rich, nice to meet ya/I got a new friend and his name Mr. Visa.”


This creative show will keep you on your toes, and is hilarious from opening to closing curtain.

Where to watch it: Online for free on Todrick’s official YouTube channel. Or see it live in Los Angeles in September.

3. Liberty’s Secret

What if Sarah Palin realized she were a lesbian? Then she’d star in Liberty’s Secret. Liberty, the running mate to a floundering conservative presidential candidate, is an all-American girl. She could not be more American unless she were born on the fourth of July.


But then she falls for her female spin doctor…

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Love wins.” But will Liberty’s political campaign?


Where to watch it: This show premieres Sept 22 in Ann Arbor, Michigan at Michigan Theatre.

4. Were the World Mine

Since scholars debate Shakespeare’s possible bi- or homosexuality, you’d think his plays would have more LGBTQ characters – Were the World Mine, a gay retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, fills that gap. It tells the tale of Timothy, a small town gay teen who uses a potion to win the heart of his rugby jock crush.


The show doesn’t necessarily tread any new territory, but with songs like “Dodgeball Daydream,” it’s a fun romp through a fantastical world.

Where to watch it: Rent it from Vimeo for $3.99.

5. Fun Home

Okay, so Fun Home won Best Tony in 2015, so it’s not exactly underground. However, it’s so good that it can’t not be on this list. When you see it, you’ll know why. This comic book-turned-Broadway musical features an astounding cast, a heart-wrenching score and relatable lyrics – “I’m changing my major to Joanne,” sings Allison the protagonist, after kissing her first girl in college.


This show tells Allison’s coming-out story parallel to her father’s. Her father remained a closeted gay man for his entire life, and eventually committed suicide. The show’s title, short for Funeral Home, seems eerily fitting. This is a show of family, of grief and, most of all, of acceptance.


Where to watch it: On Broadway eight times a week until mid-September, and on a national tour starting October 2016.

50 Years On, ‘The Killing of Sister George’ Gets Stage Show Reboot

Long before #Vausman and #Sharman made girls loving girls a staple of our TV viewing habits, another lesbian storyline rocked the nation. ‘The Killing of Sister George’, written by Frank Marcus, undoubtedly paved the way for the #Bettina’s we know today.  Produced first as a stage play in 1965, followed by cult movie in 1968, ‘Sister George’ gave birth to a new genre.

Now, 50 years on, ‘Sister George’ is back, hitting the London stage in a new production by ‘Artful Theatre’ (www.artfultheatre.co.uk). Playing from 29th October – 21 November at the London Theatre Workshop, in Fulham, this 50th Anniversary production seeks to move away from the ‘sensible shoe wearing’ stereotypes of its predecessors.

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The play charts the fall from grace of actress ‘June Buckridge,’ better known as alter ego ‘Sister George’, in a fictional BBC radio drama. June’s world heads into a tailspin, as she struggles to cope with her disintegrating career and relationship with, younger lover, ‘Childie’. Being the first British play to feature a lesbian couple; in the 1960’s, it was a ‘disaster wherever it went’.  Today, the challenge lies more with how accustomed modern audiences are to gay culture.

How do you make the play resonate when same sex couples no longer shock? ‘Artful Theatre’ Producer, Justin Savage, feels this presents less of a challenge and more of an opportunity.

He told me

In 1965 it was the implied lesbian aspect of the piece that gave it a certain notoriety. However the play is so well crafted that the other themes; control, manipulation, duplicity, passion and dependency, can be seen and explored even more clearly without the “oh my goodness! Women living together!” shock factor that it had in the 1960s.”

Refreshingly, ‘Artful’ place the emphasis on telling the story. Believing labelling to be pretty much defunct in 2015, this production enables its four female characters to go on a journey, irrespective of sexuality. As Justin points out, ‘gay culture is at a point where one could safely remove the ‘gay’ adjective; it’s just ‘culture’.

What ‘Artful’ do, so wonderfully, is take the ‘issue’ out of the drama. Traditionally, the function of gay characters has been just that; to be a ‘gay character’. So often sexuality is the story. We are moving towards a time where someone being gay, bi, heterosexual, or whatever, is a side-line. It’s not the main attraction. I have no doubt we will reach a point where the sexuality of all characters is secondary to the action. ‘Sister George’ has been resurrected many times over the years. ‘Artful’ are the first company not to portray ‘George’ as a legs spread, butch stereotype; and I applaud them for this.

The lesbian audience, in particular, want characters they can relate too. There is no such thing as the ‘blue print’ lesbian of yesteryear. We have seen complex emotional struggles played out between gay couples, in everything from The L Word, to Blue Is The Warmest Colour.

Engaging a modern day audience requires the emotional excavation to go a lot deeper than the 1968 movie dared to. As boundary pushing as it was, by never quite breaking the emotional surface; the relationship between Beryl Reid and Susannah York didn’t really scan. Comparing it to a modern dynamic of ‘Bette and Tina’, for example, Reid and York just don’t come across as a believable couple (albeit one hanging onto a few dying embers of a sadomasochistic relationship!).

In 1984, the play toured the UK once more, again starring Beryl Reid. This time, Theatre Producer Ann Pinnington was at the helm for ‘Portman Theatrical Productions’.

Even then, they felt unable to go too far. She can remember thinking ‘is the provincial audience ready for this?’ However, Ann’s love of placing fascinating women on stage was one of the driving forces behind the tour.

It has been a feature of of her career since then, as’ Ann Pinnington Productions’, Producer at ‘The New End’, and Co-Artistic Director of the Kings Head; as well as bringing iconic shows such as ‘The Kings Speech’ and ‘Positive’ to the stage.

Ann agrees with ‘Artful’, that the play is more about human nature and that we are all the same, whatever our sexual preference. For her, ‘Sister George’ centres around ‘people, relationships, emotion and the outcome’ and the idea that sexuality is only part of a person; not the whole.

This seems to fit intrinsically with the ‘Artful’ production. As Justin Savage told me, ‘This is a play about four very strong individuals, none of whom are quite what they appear to be at first sight.

The interplay between all four characters makes us stop, think, laugh and draw a sharp intake of breath as we marvel at both the frailty and resilience of the human condition.’ For a 2015 audience, I believe this is the way to go and I am certain, whether you are straight, gay, bi or just plain curious; this production will offer a fresh take on an old classic.

‘The Killing of Sister George’ opens on 29th October 2015 and runs until 21st November 2015 at the London Theatre Workshop, in Fulham. Tickets are £15/£12 and can be purchased at www.londontheatreworkshop.co.uk Directed by Scott Le Crass for ‘Artful Productions’ and starring Sioned Jones, Briony Rawle, Sarah Shelton and Janet Amsden. @SisterGeorgeLon @Artfultheatre