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Awkward Stages: Plays about Growing Up Gay By John Clum and Sean Metzger ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Awkward Stages:

asks readers to think about the category of the gay teenager not in terms of growing toward full stature, marriage, work, reproduction, and the loss of childishness but in terms of growing sideways.1 Growing sideways is a term that tries to mark the problems and violence that can occur when we assume teenagers are not capable of, for example, processing and acting on sexuality because they are not old enough. What would it mean to think of children as agents rather than dependents? These different means of categorizing plays about growing up gay—through an aesthetic genealogy, the context of particular historical events, and specific theories produced by academic scholars—enable readers to think about the five plays that we have included in this volume from a number of perspectives. Although we offer individual introductions to each play in Awkward Stages, we conclude this general introduction by articulating what might be of interest in looking at them as an ensemble: how does this group of plays investigate gay identification, sex, geography, and cultural specificity?

Staging and Screening Gay Adolescence

Gay teenagers have been central characters in dozens of independent American films, but they have seldom appeared on stage until recently. Although the highly successful 1953 play, Tea and Sympathy (adapted for the screen in 1956), features a prep school boy accused of homosexuality, the curtain falls as the boy proves his heterosexuality with the wife of one of his teachers. One of the first television depictions of a youth who has had homosexual experience, Welcome Home, Bobby (1986) depicts a youth ostracized by his father and his peers when it is revealed that he had a sexual encounter with an older man. The telefilm hedges its bets, as the young man vacillates over whether he is gay. Even as plays, films, and television dramas showed audiences gay adults, presenting an out teenage gay character was largely taboo until the 1990s (a notable exception being the role of David in Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, which appeared on Broadway in 1982 and as a film in 1988). In England,