This article comes at a time my thoughts have reached an intersection, both my thoughts on the LGBTQ Arts Review, the world, how art can engage with politics and how we can make the arts more accessible. This was originally going to be just a blog post, but inspired by #actsofconnection, it’s also an invite to connect.
For a long time I have been concerned about the lack of diversity in LGBTQ+ theatre. Much of the work we get invited to had been created by and / or is about white, cisgendered males (in our first year just under 80% of shows had a narrative following a gay male). Of course, this is to be celebrated, it is a huge step forward, considering this year marks only 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised, the fact you can now watch gay narratives on stage almost every night of the week is fantastic progress. And of course, we still have a way to go yet. For a long time I’ve been curious as to how we diversify LGBT+ theatre further, so that the female, trans and non-binary voices are present, as well as BAME and disabled LGBT+ voices with just as much weight as the others. As well as this, I’m keen to identify where the key barriers lie. The LGBTQ+ Arts Review has a few things in the pipeline to push this along and please do get in touch if you’re on a similar mission, or are also concerned: we are stronger together!
Although The LGBTQ+ Arts Review focuses on LGBT+ theatre, we know that diversity across all theatre and arts is a problem, and support all those trying to make a difference regarding this (because so many amazing groups, organisations and individuals are). A couple of nights ago, as I watched the protests unfold on Twitter, protests against Trump, a man who fears difference, a man who fears the things he can not and will not understand, I began to question how we can now use our art politically with greater outreach and impact. The theatre and arts have been good at celebrating difference, and aim to build bridges – but in post-Brexit Britain, and Trump-ruled America and under Tory driven cuts, it feels now more than ever that our art needs to reach beyond the already converted.
This idea is not a new one. Theatre used to happen in a public arena. It was neither elite, esoteric (understood by a few) or about ‘excellence’. Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed empowered communities to take action and explore possibilities, with the aim to bring about political and social change. The Fun Palaces movement seeks empower entire communities to become makers, creators, artists and scientists. Teatro Vivo, amongst many other companies have taken their work away from the theatres and on to the streets – bringing people from the local community to work alongside them in their shows. So these ideas already exist, and now is a good time to look to the people doing them well to ensure outreach and empowerment is greater.
I also recognise the need for theatre and art to be fun. We need fun at the moment. We need silly. We need to laugh and occasionally take ourselves away from the seriousness of it all – but perhaps that is a different blog.
I’ve recently been thinking how, as a maker myself, I want my messages to reach more people. And I want other people’s messages to reach me. There are messages I’m keen to get across, as with all theatre makers. Part of my own writing for theatre stems from the want to see more queer women represented on stage, so that young women today do not have to grow up without those representations of themselves, and so that my generation (and beyond) finally have that representation. But then there are the messages I want to stretch beyond the theatre walls. Messages I want to reach the public – and be discussed as a two-way conversation.
On February 13th Yesterqueer is coming to the streets: “‘Yesterqueer’ in this February’s LGBTQI+ History Month is our opportunity to display radical queer history and play with public space to open up questions about homophobia and stigma, where it came from and and how it pervades in our society today.”
I’m excited and hopeful. The key aims of Yesterqueer are to demonstrate the need for a museum dedicated to LGBTQ history, for the community. I support this, but hope if and when a museum is built, it won’t stop the art from taking to the streets. Now more than ever we need to build bridges between the arts and audiences, and now more than ever we need everyone (not just ‘artists’) to feel empowered to make art as a response to the global situation.
These are my thoughts. This is a blog that I hope will open a conversation. If you would like to connect with the LGBTQ Arts review for whatever reason, whether you’d like to review for us, are making LGBTQ+ theatre, are frustrated by something, or are celebrating something – please connect: email@example.com
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