In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’re featuring the five most researched LGBT playwrights on Questia and making reference works on each of them free for an entire month. Society has fortunately come a long way from the times of Oscar Wilde. President Barack Obama has come out in support of gay rights, and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has as well. For more insight and to hear her supportive thoughts on LGBT Pride Month, check out Nick Wing’s article for The Huffington Post, “Hillary Clinton Honors LGBT Pride Month.”
- Oscar Wilde: Born in Ireland in 1854, Wilde was a self-proclaimed aesthete. His various poems, short stories, fairy tales, plays, dialogues and novels are some of the most highly regarded and notorious works of the nineteenth-century. Wilde achieved public success as a comic playwright, crowned by The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895 (Murray and Wilde 1). In that same year, Wilde was tried and found guilty of “homosexual offenses.” After his imprisonment, he wrote the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which is one of his most famous works. [Murray, Isobel, ed. Oscar Wilde: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Questia. Web]
- Tennessee Williams: Beginning in Mississippi and known as Thomas Lanier Williams, Tennessee Williams was born in an Episcopal rectory and was doted on by his grandmother, grandfather (an Episcopal priest), mother and sister. It wasn’t until after college that he took on the name “Tennessee” and decided to become a writer. Much of what the public knew about his personal life was orchestrated by Williams himself, including the year he was born. “His devil-may-care attitude, bringing him fame and fortune as a playwright of sexuality and violence, really was a rebellion against his Puritan upbringing. Deep down, he was an intensely serious writer who saw his creativity as a gift and writing as a vocation” (Tischler 1). [Tischler, Nancy M. Student Companion to Tennessee Williams. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Questia. Web.]
- Edward Albee: Albee was born in March of 1928 and was the adopted son of Reed A. and Frances Cotter Albee of New York. Albee’s contribution to the theatre community has not gone un-noticed. He has received three Pulitzer Prizes, one of which was for Three Tall Women. “In 2002, Albee won the Tony Award for Best Play for The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Through it all, Albee has not missed a step, continuing to teach, direct, and write new plays” (Mann 1). Some of his most famous works include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, The Zoo Story and The Lady from Dubuque. [Mann, Bruce J. “Introduction.” Edward Albee: A Casebook. Ed. Bruce J. Mann. New York: Routledge, 2003. 1-5. Questia. Web.]
- Tony Kushner: Kushner was born in New York to parents who were symphony musicians. At age two, the family moved to New Orleans after they inherited a lumber business, but Kushner returned to New York to attend college. He attended Columbia College and received a bachelor’s degree in medieval studies—his evident love for history carried over into some of his greatest works. He also received a Masters of fine Arts degree from New York University (NYU). “In his undergraduate and graduate years, he saw as many plays in Manhattan as he possibly could. During these years, he was in therapy to try to change his sexual orientation, but in 1981, he called his mother from a pay phone in New York to tell her he was gay” (Nelson 248). Some of his most famous works include Angels in America, Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul. [Wolf, Janet S. “Tony Kushner (1956–).” Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights : An A-to-Z Guide. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003. 246-259. Questia. Web.]
- Noël Coward: Coward was so influential that the name “Coward” has become synonymous with an English style. The style is reflected in silk gowns, sophisticated cigarette holders, upper-class accents, wit and sex appeal. “His plays reinforced image, and Coward was not averse to audiences confusing him with his leading male heterosexual characters” (Duerden 81). Coward’s humor was found and written within common phrases that were perfectly timed, so the delivery itself was funny, not the words he used. Some of his most notable works include I’ll Leave It to You, Hay Fever, Easy Virtue and Private Lives. [Duerden, Sarah. “Noël Coward (1899-1973).” British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Ed. William W. Demastes andKatherine E. Kelly. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. 81-96. Questia. Web.]
For further tribute to LGBT Pride Month, take a look at our recent blog post honoring the work of famous LGBT poets!