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The Boys in the Band
"The Boys in the Band" was the first commercially successful play to portray gay characters on stage. It premiered Off-Broadway in 1968 and then moved to Broadway in 1970. It was a groundbreaking production that shed light on the lives of gay men in New York City during the 1960s. The play was written by Mart Crowley, an openly gay man who drew from his personal experiences and friendships to create the characters. "The Boys in the Band" paved the way for other LGBTQ+ productions to be accepted and celebrated by mainstream audiences.
Angels in America
"Angels in America" is a two-part play by Tony Kushner that premiered in 1991. It explores the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and its impact on the LGBTQ+ community. The play also deals with themes of politics, religion, and homosexuality. "Angels in America" won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was later adapted into an HBO miniseries in 2003.
"Rent" is a rock musical by Jonathan Larson that premiered Off-Broadway in 1996 and then moved to Broadway in 1996. The play tells the story of a group of struggling artists living in New York City's East Village during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It explores themes of love, loss, and the LGBTQ+ community. "Rent" won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Torch Song Trilogy
"Torch Song Trilogy" is a three-act play by Harvey Fierstein that premiered Off-Broadway in 1982. It tells the story of Arnold Beckoff, a drag performer, and his search for love and acceptance. The play deals with themes of homophobia, family, and identity. "Torch Song Trilogy" won multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play.
The Normal Heart
"The Normal Heart" is a play by Larry Kramer that premiered Off-Broadway in 1985. It tells the story of Ned Weeks, a gay activist, and his efforts to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The play deals with themes of politics, homophobia, and activism. "The Normal Heart" won multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
"Fun Home" is a musical by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori that premiered Off-Broadway in 2013 and then moved to Broadway in 2015. The musical is based on the graphic memoir of the same name by Alison Bechdel. It explores Alison's childhood and her relationship with her closeted gay father, as well as her own coming out story. "Fun Home" won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
La Cage aux Folles
"La Cage aux Folles" is a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. It premiered on Broadway in 1983 and tells the story of Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag performers, and his partner Albin, who is also the club's star performer. The musical deals with themes of love, family, and acceptance. "La Cage aux Folles" won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Inspired by the 2011 television documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, which followed the real-life story of sixteen year-old Jamie Campbell. It depicts Jame's battle to overcome homophobic prejudice, stand up to the bullies, and emerge as a fully-formed drag queen.
The Laramie Project
This play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project explores the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. The play's themes of hate, prejudice, and the need for tolerance helped to spark a national conversation about LGBTQ+ rights.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch:
Written by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical that tells the story of Hedwig, a genderqueer East German rock musician. The play's themes of identity, self-expression, and the search for love and acceptance helped to push the boundaries of gender and sexuality in mainstream media.
LGBTQ+ theatre has played a significant role in shaping the course of theatre history. Through plays that explore themes of identity, love, loss, and societal norms, LGBTQ+ playwrights have challenged and transformed the way we see the world. From Angels in America to Fun Home, each play has made a unique contribution to the LGBTQ+ canon, creating a rich and diverse tapestry of voices and stories. By understanding and celebrating this history, we can continue to push for greater representation and inclusivity in the theatre industry and beyond.