Out and onstage

Say ‘theatre’ and most people would probably reply that it is one of the most gay-friendly environments there is. Looking for a topic to write on this week I was bombarded by gay related theatre news; Alan Bennett, gay playwright, has confirmed that his new play, People, will be showing at the National Theatre this October, directed by Nicholas Hytner, also gay.  In the wake of a particularly good production of Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Dobson reminds us that some of the best portrayals of said Shakespearian villain have been given by John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and, a cross-dressed Fiona Shaw, all of whom are gay. In other news, gossip rages on in Hollywood about the sexual orientation of some actors. But surely it doesn’t matter. This is the twenty-first century after all.

Well, if we are to believe a recent equity survey, which stated that only 57% of gay actors feel they can be open about their sexuality to their agents, and that a third of actors have experienced homophobia within the industry, we might have to reassess our initial assumption. 
Rupert Everett said that coming out ‘ruined’ his career, and another actress, who wished to remain anonymous, was quoted highlighting that  ‘the representation of gay women in the media is usually of young feminine women. Casting directors are usually looking for a ‘type’ based on the heterosexual model, which means you have to act ‘straight’ regardless.’ 
 Is this 57% any better or worse than the situation found in other professions? It is probably impossible to say, but there is evidence that awareness of homophobia in the workplace is increasing.
The Equality Act, passed in 2010, condemns discrimination based on disability, sex, age, religion, belief, maternity, pregnancy, and, for the first time, homophobia or prejudce based on gender reassignment. It applies to any employment body that receives public funding, and therefore to organisations like the BBC and the National theatre. Employers now have a ‘public duty’ to eliminate discrimination, advance equality, and foster good relations between groups.
Yet legislation is only the first step in tackling the stereotypes and typcasting rife in the world of acting, and the belief that someone’s sexuality affects their ability to effectively play a character. 
Theatre groups such as Pink Triangle Theatre and the Spare Tyre group (whose tagline is ‘theatre without prejudice’) have taken the medium and used it to tackle homophobia through educational workshops, perhaps an apt reminder that putting these issues on stage in a form an audience can’t escape from can tackle prejudice head on.

Say ‘theatre’ and most people would probably reply that it is one of the most gay-friendly environments there is. Looking for a topic to write on this week I was bombarded by gay related theatre news; Alan Bennett, gay playwright, has confirmed that his new play, People, will be showing at the National Theatre this October, directed by Nicholas Hytner, also gay.  In the wake of a particularly good production of Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Dobson reminds us that some of the best portrayals of said Shakespearian villain have been given by John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and, a cross-dressed Fiona Shaw, all of whom are gay. In other news, gossip rages on in Hollywood about the sexual orientation of some actors.

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But surely it doesn’t matter. This is the twenty-first century after all.Well, if we are to believe a recent equity survey, which stated that only 57% of gay actors feel they can be open about their sexuality to their agents, and that a third of actors have experienced homophobia within the industry, we might have to reassess our initial assumption. 

Rupert Everett said that coming out ‘ruined’ his career, and another actress, who wished to remain anonymous, was quoted highlighting that  ‘the representation of gay women in the media is usually of young feminine women. Casting directors are usually looking for a ‘type’ based on the heterosexual model, which means you have to act ‘straight’ regardless.’  Is this 57% any better or worse than the situation found in other professions? It is probably impossible to say, but there is evidence that awareness of homophobia in the workplace is increasing.

The Equality Act, passed in 2010, condemns discrimination based on disability, sex, age, religion, belief, maternity, pregnancy, and, for the first time, homophobia or prejudce based on gender reassignment. It applies to any employment body that receives public funding, and therefore to organisations like the BBC and the National theatre. Employers now have a ‘public duty’ to eliminate discrimination, advance equality, and foster good relations between groups.

Yet legislation is only the first step in tackling the stereotypes and typcasting rife in the world of acting, and the belief that someone’s sexuality affects their ability to effectively play a character. Theatre groups such as Pink Triangle Theatre and the Spare Tyre group (whose tagline is ‘theatre without prejudice’) have taken the medium and used it to tackle homophobia through educational workshops, perhaps an apt reminder that putting these issues on stage in a form an audience can’t escape from can tackle prejudice head on.