A New Publication from Cambria Press
Awkward Stages: Plays about Growing Up Gay
edited by John Clum and Sean Metzger
Having looked carefully at more than forty plays, Professors John Clum (Duke University) and Sean Metzger (UCLA) finally selected five plays for the unique perspectives they bring on gay adolescence.
Why are such plays critical? Why is it important that book like Awkward Stages: Plays About Growing Up Gay are read and made available?
LGBT teens face not only the usual teenage coming-of-age anxieties but also issues ranging from isolation, prejudice, bullying to even suicide and murder. As Clum and Metzger note in their introduction:
“Continued anti-LGBT violence (witness the shooting of 15-year old Larry King in 2008) provides a haunting backdrop for the narratives in this book. These murders intersect with other forms of related queer violence, including bullying and suicide, that have received intermittent attention in US media; however, the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi in 2010 renewed this focus.”
Since then, preventative efforts have been made. Among these Clum and Metzger noted are:
“the It Gets Better Project is that it uses social media networks to respond to new forms of harassment, including cyberbullying. It Gets Better encourages young people to endure the present in hopes of living for a brighter future. This call for endurance —a kind of survival model—perhaps assumes too easily that trauma can be locked away in the past. From White Plains, contained in this volume, suggests that such trauma can cripple the people involved.”
On the playbill for From White Plains, it states: “Just Because It Gets Better Doesn’t Mean It Didn’t Happen.” Calling out the wrongs and reinforcing messages of social justice, which speak out against homophobia and anti-LGBT reactions, is critical for in order for society’s continued progress.
“The Top Ten Reasons Why Theatre is Still Important in the Twenty-First Century” by Professor Kevin Brown (University of Missouri, Columbia). All of Professor Brown’s reasons apply here, but the ones which resonate most deeply for these plays on gay teens are:
Performance permeates every aspect of our everyday lives. Power relationships are constructed through performances. Understanding how performances unfold around us can help us to recognize and take control of the power dynamics that affect us.
#3 Social Change
Theatre is a cultural space where society examines itself in a mirror. Theatre has long been looked at as a laboratory in which we can study the problems that confront society and attempt to solve those problems.”
Theatre as a mirror for society has been effective; Clum and Metzger observed that “All of these plays have received powerful productions at theatres across America and Canada.” They also added that when they selected these plays, “Our goal was ethnic, racial, and geographical diversity as well as diversity of theme and style.”
In addition to highlighting LGBT teen issues in these diverse ways, the plays in Awkward Stages: Plays About Growing Up Gay also showcases, as Clum and Metzger mentioned, “the vitality and variety of contemporary North American drama.”
Try to catch these plays at your local theatre or at a theatre in a city you’re visiting. For those who have already seen the plays, this book is be an excellent complement in thinking further about the plays and their layers. For those who have not, this book is a fine introduction and will definitely make you want to catch the plays.
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