Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Rita D. Jacobs
Keith D. Slocum
Arthur D. Simon
This paper explores the disruptive impact that the verbal revelation of homosexuality causes to the community, as presented in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Moises Kaufman’s The Laramie Project, and Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out. These revelations and subsequent disruptions occur in the early moments of each of the plays and, as a result, the larger action and substance of these works deals with the repercussions, including an exploration of the reactions and chain of events that these initial disturbances set in motion. The issues raised, however, are not always connected directly to the initial revelation of homosexuality, but the plays focus largely on how things will ultimately be set right again with the forcing of these issues to the forefront of the community consciousness.
In Angels in America, Kushner presents three separate instances in which varying levels of homosexuality cause disruptions both to a character’s role in their specific community, as well as their personal identity. For the Mormon-Republican character of Joe Pitt his verbal coming out puts a strain not only on his heterosexual marriage and religious faith, but also his professional relationship with Republican powerhouse, and closeted homosexual, Roy Cohn. The fictionalized Cohn also experiences a similar disruption through his AIDS diagnosis, the illness serving as an undeniable indicator of his hidden sexuality. The openly homosexual character of Prior Walter also experiences the disruptive impact of AIDS, when his advancing illness puts a strain on his relationship with his partner Louis.
The Laramie Project uses a technique developed by Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project called “Moment work” to explore the disruptive impact the murder of gay-university student Matthew Shepard had on the small town of Laramie, WY. Matthew’s murder pushes the existence of a homosexual “community” within the larger town to the forefront of people’s minds and forces a re-examination of their “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward homosexuality in general. Laramie is also the only one of the three plays that never deals directly with the disruption itself. Matthew is never presented on stage; all information concerning both his character and his part in the murder comes through second or third parties only, including other members of Laramie’s homosexual population.
Finally, Take Me Out explores the disruptive aftermath following the very public coming out of major league baseball player Darren Lemming. This public acknowledgement of his homosexuality not only affects his status in the eyes of his fans, but also puts a strain on his teammates by forcing them to re-evaluate their relationships with Darren and their potential “homo-erotic” closeness with each other. If he could be homosexual, any of them could and it is precisely this growing tension and discomfort that leads to a slow loss of trust, and trust is a necessity for the success of any close community.
Through an examination of all of these plays I will explore the disruptions caused by these revelations of homosexuality, and the conflict that emerges between the individual and the community, and how the community as a whole may move forward.
Kurta, Meghan Kathleen, "Challenging the Idea of Community : Angels in America, The Laramie Project and Take Me Out" (2009). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1185.