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Too many gay plays?

on . Posted in Commentary.

I heard someone remark, one day, that there "were too many gay plays" during a certain year, perhaps 2007 when Asian Boys Vol. 3 was running. I sought his reasons for saying so, and was satisfied at the time that he posed it as an opinion. But I also stewed over it after the incident.

I wish I had said the following three things to him:

(1) Would he have said the same about a play of another minority group? How would it sound to say, "Oh, there are far too many plays about race now. Having one or two is okay, but it was just too much."

The thing about being a minority group is that we are perpetually underrepresented in popular discourse. We don't have the luxury of being able to pop into a cinema every day and be able to see queer-identifying men and women living lives with their partners, pets and kids. Trying to balance out that ratio and having you squirm just means that you are used to the imbalance, not that it is in the natural or right way to go.

(2) To be fair to those who share his perspective, there may be a disproportionate amount of queer content in theatre compared to mass media meant for public consumption. However, a feature of the medium and of art in general is to push boundaries and to deal with the marginal issues of the day. If being gay were one day considered a normal facet of human life, and if power relations were somehow to equalise, I'm pretty sure it would become a far less interesting topic to depict in theatre. I hope we are moving towards that.

(3) With the presence of so many queer individuals in the theatre scene and the liberal slant of the arts community, it's surprising that there aren't more so-called gay plays around. Not that anyone, gay or straight, is obliged to address the topic in their art. But the stark absence of LGBT characters in plays and films, when they are the very people we know and love in everyday life, may just be reproducing the invisibility people with straight privilege are so used to. It's why I like to be pleasantly surprised by subtextual hints that protagonists have had same-sex attractions in their pasts. These things happen.

Since I'm on the topic, I do wonder where Singapore gay theatre is going. The representation that stands out from 2010 is The Necessary Stage's ____ Can Change, which really pushed the envelope in the opposite direction to say that gay people can choose to change. Whether the audience received the message as such depended on the individual, and was the most interesting aspect of the show, in my opinion. The trend of "gay plays" seems to have faded for time being, as if LGBT theatre with its decades-long history has made peace with itself and is trying to assimilate into Singapore’s cultural politics.

Or maybe I'm just thinking too much.

To give the fellow some credit, he got on my nerves because he came across as the type of guy who would stand on the side of civil unions and let us be, so the remark came across as particularly insensitive. But I didn't out myself either, and never had the opportunity to engage him again.

Would have made for a good conversation if I had.




# Philosopher83 2010-08-23 19:00
Hi I know! I often wished I could return to conversational moments like that and offer a better response, which sometimes come to mind only much later.

I think it might be good if the lesbian community get together to support each other's works - be it writings, poetry, film scripts, etc - so that we would not reproduce the invisibility. I think it is extremely difficult to be so bare and honest about our experiences, our erotica, etc, but I feel that we need to find the courage (and time) to do just that.
# alina 2010-09-14 00:14
Hi, thanks Philosopher83 for the response. Well, in some cases, being slow to speech is a good thing! Many an explosion may have been avoided.

Yes, we really should support - okay, maybe not blindly, but pay some attention. I think Contradiction's been a good platform for the past couple of years.
# Philosopher83 2010-09-17 22:57
i know, the trade-off between coming off as passive/dumb (when you don't speak) versus coming off as being easily angered and close-minded (when you are quick to speech).

The idea you propose is kind of like a "correction" situation. Because there is lesser of X in the past or in the mainstream, therefore we must have more of X now or in the alternative scene.

For me, flourishing quantities of plays of whhichever genre and variety are more important principles, rather than "more gay plays please" kind of focus.

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