In this paper, I will be talking about how everything is political through theatre. A lot of people do not realize that most plays have a huge political story. Even though, some plays are very entertaining, a lot of playwrights add elements of political themes. For an example, it could be from citizenship, LGBT, feminists, or even just race. Through the plays The Temperamentals by Jon Marans, Homos, or Everyone in America by Jordan Seavery, Mary Mary by Tiffany Richards and The Mother Fucker with the Hat by Stephen Adlyy Guirgis. The play, Homo, or Everyone in America, shows the hardships of the LGBT community had to go through.
However, before these plays were created there was events and other plays that brought out the political side of theatre. The reason is because the people from the LGBT community are in a constant conflict between being a “good citizen” and being themselves. A U.S citizen has the right to be able to express themselves and the freedom to pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In 1964, there were two plays that came onto the scene.
These were The Madness of Lady Bright by Lanford Wilson and The Haunted Host by Robert Patrick. They were huge successes because of the exposure and the huge wave of motivation it gave to the LGBT community. However, before these plays, there were problems in the theatre community regarding putting up gay plays. In the late 1920s, there was a play called The Drag by Mae West. The play ended up becoming “scandalous” which it resulted in it being censored and the arrest of the playwright. In Blaney’s essay, “1964: The Birth of Gay Theatre,” he talks about the laws that were placed right afterwards: …Newyork City’s 1927 “padlock bill,” prohibited homosexual subject matter on the Broadway stage.
A few years later, the Hays Code of 1934 banned images of homosexuality on the Hollywood screen. Consequently, censorship of gay themes in theater and film was the norm in the U.S from the 1930s through the 1960s. (17) Now about the play Homos, Or Everyone in America by Jordan Seavey, it is about two men who fall in love and break apart in a urban life style. Just like the title, it is very blunt and explores the dangerous life of being homos during the early 2000s. In the scene, politics show up in how people are homophobic and against marriage equality. Not only that, the characters also mention a story of a closeted celebrity journalist and the out gay fifteen-year-old who was murdered. It is not only about two people falling in love.
I believe the playwright actions for this play is to show the difference between being a homo now from the past. Homos are still being stripped of their rights. They must follow their responsibility as a citizen to follow the rules even if it means to not to live their actual lives. Just like Charles Isherwood said from New York Times “The play is fundamentally about the problems inherent in any romantic relationship, the conflicts small and large that put love to the test, and often cripple it.
Which is, I suppose, where everyone in America might come in” (Isherwood). There should not be any difference between being gay and good citizen, but society and politics made it so during those times. That is the reason why this play makes theatre political and how everything could be political. Because it reflex’s what is going on with our day to day lives. In the play The Temperamentals by Jon Marans, Marans addresses the problem of the gays exercising their rights. The play is about how a group of homosexual men created the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in the 1950s. They were trying to stand up for their rights as they risked their lives. The only problem was that it had a bad image because a lot of people thought it was just a communist activist group. That is why the Mattachine ended up getting involved with the FBI.
Once that happened, law makers printed and broadcasted fear into the community about the homosexuals and Mattachine organization. Boys started to get scared of being seen walking out in the streets together, because they might be arrested or suspected of being homosexuals. Some even went into hiding and trying to cover it up by marrying and having children. However, sometimes they would get caught. Soon the Stone Wall Riot happened that caused the gay community movement to push even further.
During the 1960s, a lot of the LGBT Americas had no place to be themselves without getting caught and arrested. Therefore, a lot would go to gay bars and clubs. Once again, law makers made it more difficult for them because the New York State Liquor Authority would close down bars and clubs that were caught selling alcohol to LGBT individuals. Even though they were allowed to go out and express themselves, the law makers found a way to make their life worse and that’s when Stone Wall happened.
They were getting tired of being pushed around and feeling unimportant. The playwright used this play to educate people about what homosexuals had to do stand up for themselves. Even though they had the rights to express themselves, there were people who wanted to control them and ended up putting laws in place to prevent that from happening. The community did not like the message the play gave out, which was sympathetic treatment towards homosexuals. In the play, the playwright shows the reality and the criminal prosecution that can and will happen to people who try to fight the law. For an example, Dale Jennings was arrested for lewd conduct in February 1952. The playwright wanted the reader to feel hope.
Andy Webster in the New York Times said, “Nevertheless, “The Temperamentals” succeeds at conveying an era when only a few brave men dared announce their sexual identity before a society that vilified them” (Webster). As time went by, The Temperamentals was the breaking point in for political theatre for homosexuals to push for their rights and still be good citizens. Another example of how everything in theatre is political, is the play Mary Mary by Tiffany Richards.
This play was a huge success because of how Mary McKellaway showed the world what a feminist is. However, since everything in theatre is political, I would like to argue that it isn’t Mary McKellaway. That it is character Tiffany Richards who is the feminist in the play. Now, one must be thinking, “why make a big deal about this? Why can’t we just enjoy the life of two lovers that has fallen apart, come back together?”.
The reason is because that is not what the playwright intended, and like in everything in life, there is an argument to everything. Now, for the example of Tiffany being the feminist in the play, from the beginning, Tiffany showed the reader that she is not like any other women. Bob McKellaway must meet with his ex-wife to help figure out some expenses for his taxes. Right away, Tiffany is willing to meet Mary and is excited to meet her. Bob, and probably the reader, are shocked by this response because during that time one would think that the women would automatically be jealous towards each other. However, Tiffany does not, she even goes even further and talks about the stigma of a divorced marriage. She says, Practically everybody Daddy knows is divorced. It’s not that they’re worse than other people, they’re just richer. And you do begin to see the pattern.
You know Howard Pepper. When he divorced his first wife, everybody said “Oh, what he endured with Maggie! It was hell on earth! She’s so good for him. (21, Kerr) A Divorced man is always the one who comes out it fine, but the women get shamed. Tiffany is upset about and stands up for them. Towards the end, Tiffany finally meets Mary. She is very direct and happy to see marry sleeping in her fiancée apartment. Which at first is weird, but she starts out by saying. “I never dreamt I’d find you here. But I’m so pleased it worked out this way.
I’ve been dying to meet you. And it’s a good thing Bob isn’t here” (96, Kerr). Mary even makes a comment about Tiffany being so frank and disarming, which is not a trait most women have. Tiffany goes even further saying that she pleased that Mary and Bob slept together, even when it did not happen. Which is weird because one would think someone would be upset about that. In the end, she explains this odd behavior, Well, one, he’s thirteen years older than I am. That may not seem important now, but in ten years the gap will seem even wider. Then, two—he’s a divorced man, which makes him a bad risk to start with. A girl of my age really deserves better than that. Finally, he’s not a rich man, never will be a rich man, and he could never provide the Dior originals and the sable stoles that a girl of my up bring would naturally expect (120, Kerr).
She says those words with good intentions, not to hurt Bob. Unlike the women during that time, they would not have tried to look out of themselves and try to get out of a relationship because the women back at that time might not have the backbone for it. However, Tiffany does, she knows what she wants and what she needs in her life. Then finally, she ended her relationship with Bob once and for all. I was attracted to Bob in the first place because he wasn’t attracted to me. That intrigued me. I don’t want to sound conceited but when you’re twenty-one and you’re sort of pretty and very rich, you get used to men falling in love with you.
But now I ask myself—is it enough that man is not attracted to you? Good-by (129, Kerr). She is independent, knows what she wants, and strives for herself, which says a lot considering how women were during that time. She moves with power and maintains power, but not only that she looks out for other women and respects them too. That is the reason why this play is political, because there is a character in this play that gets shamed upon through society, because feminist can become a threat.
Finally, the play Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis. This play is about Veronica’s and Jackie’s relationship falling apart because of trust issues, adultery, addiction, and drugs. This play is especially political because it bring out issues that is happen to our community today. In our country we are have so many issues with drugs and addiction. In this play is shows how drugs and addiction can ruin one’s life. That is what I think the playwright is trying to say. They want to show the reader that there are consequences when that path. It political because it shows the violence that is happen in our society today.
Not only that, it political to this day because of the casting that is occurring. These characters are Latinx. However, when they are casted, they are not casted by a Latinx actor. Now, one might be thinking, why does it matter? It matters because it does not fully represent the language and the style of these people. When they are speaking the words and sentence structures from Latinx tongue, it does not flow. When I heard the podcast of this play, I kept cringing how fake this sounded and how unnatural it sounded.
I kept feeling that they were misrepresenting these Latinx individuals. Not only that, this is an on-going situation that has been going on through the theatre world. There are cast directors that are casting people in roles that they shouldn’t. However, they always want the pretty blonde, girl or boy, to play the role. That is what makes this play political. As you can already tell, these plays have so many examples on why theatre is political. There are so many things that happen to our day to day lives that playwrights can’t help it to be influence by their environment. There is always a problem and there is always a solution.
Therefore, there will always be someone who disagrees with something. That is theatre. Theatre is an environment that shares stories that are meant to be discussed and it is the readers job to figure out what the playwright is trying to say. 100 percent of the time, it is political. Therefore, everything is political, even in theatre.