In the hit television drama SMASH, fictional Broadway producer Tom Levitt notes to his stage manager that he “hate(s) working with gays”, to which she replies “You’re in the wrong business then”, playing off the fact that Broadway is full of gay men. While this makes for a witty bit and a quick laugh, it plays off a much larger stereotype that theater in itself is gay, as is anyone who enjoys it. But is it true? Is theater truly “gay”?
The theater community is known for being open. No matter your race, religion, sexuality or any other characteristic, there is a place for you in our small world. In turn, this policy tends to attract the people who face the most adversity in their day to day lives. Those who feel ostracized or unsafe elsewhere often find their family in local theater venues. Frequently, those people are LGBTQ+. As HuffPost writer Domenick Scudera states,
“Why are so many gay people drawn to work in theater? Two reasons, in my opinion:
Theater accepts everyone and values diversity. The more unique and different you are in life, the more special you are onstage. The overweight kid bullied in high school is gorgeous in the spotlight. The gay boy who can sing and dance is not an object of ridicule onstage; he is appreciated and applauded.
Gay people are forced to be creative and to play roles from a very young age. Acting becomes part of our nature because we are forced to be who others want us to be rather than who we may really be on the inside. Gay people are good actors because we have been practicing all our lives.”
There is no denying that there is a large presence of LGBTQ+ personnel working in theaters all over the world. But contrary to what those labeling theatre as gay believe, that is not a bad thing. The diversity that runs so boldly in our community allows us to explore topics and ideas that other art forms cannot. In fact, since the early 1990’s, gay and lesbian themes have been on the rise in modern theater. RENT, Kinky Boots, Hedwig and so many more shows bring attention to the struggles of those who have found a voice in theater. LGBTQ+ themes have become so prevalent that many consider these shows to have their own category!
When someone tells you that theater is gay, generally they are attempting to insult you. But it is true. Theatre is gay. Theatre is also straight, cis, trans, African, Latinx, Asian, European, rich, poor and so much more. Theatre is what each of us brings into it. It is a free flowing patchwork of diversity, where we work each day to create and share its story.