Op-ed: Why Gay Men Love The Theater
BY Jim David
July 08 2012 1:12 PM ET
Every profession has an “old boys network,” but Broadway is one of the only professions in America where most of the “old boys” are gay. Gay men have commandeered the business of creating theater for so long that being gay could actually be considered a career move. Gay writers and performers have dominated theater since the Greeks – the opening night party of Sophocles’ Oedipusallegedly featured Dionysian go-go boys and an open bar. Gay writers and directors such as William Inge, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Stephen Sondheim, Tommy Tune, Arthur Laurents, Joe Mantello, Terence McNally, Jon Robin Baitz, and Harvey Fierstein have ruled the theatrical roost for decades. Choreographers? With the notable exceptions of Bob Fosse and Gower Champion, forget it.
Why are gay men so attracted to theater? In my case, I was recruited into the theatrical lifestyle against my will. My parents, active in community theater, forced me to audition for a children’s theater production of The Wizard Of Oz. So, at age 9, I made my stage debut as a Munchkin uttering the immortal words, “We thank you very sweetly for doing it so neatly.”
I knew I belonged in that world, having no idea that I was gay or even that such a thing existed, but I unearthed a newfound love for prancing around in costumes and makeup in front of an audience. I also met plenty of kids exactly like me, kids who didn’t fit in anywhere else. I fit into the theater world like a stripper into a G-string.
Gay men are like anyone – they want to hang around with a bunch of people who “get” them. In the theater, they do. Many gay men love playing dress up, putting on a show, and creating fantasy. In show business, as Johnny Carson said, “You can be the center of attention without being yourself.”