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From Bogeyman to Bison: A Herd-Like Amnesia of HIV/AIDS in Theatre?1


Queer theorists from across a broad range of disciplines argue that we are in a ‘normalizing’ or ‘homonormative’ period, in which marginalized subjectivities strive to align themselves with hegemonic norms. In terms of LGBTQ rights and representation, it can be argued that this has resulted in an increased visibility of ‘desirable’ gays (monogamous – ideally civil-partnered, white, financially independent, able-bodied) and the decreased visibility of ‘undesirable’ gays (the sick, the poor, the non-white, the non-gender-conforming). Focusing specifically on the effects of this hierarchy on the contemporary theatrical representation of gay HIV/AIDS subjectivities, this article looks at two performances, Reza Abdoh's Bogeyman (1991) and Lachlan Philpott's Bison (2009–10). The article argues that HIV/AIDS performance is as urgently necessary today as in the early 1990s, and that a queer dramaturgy, unafraid to resist the lure of normativity or the ‘gaystreaming’ of LGBT representation, is a vital intervention strategy in contemporary (LGBT) theatre.

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David Román , ‘NOT-ABOUT-AIDS’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 6, 1 (2000), pp. 128

Julian Carter , ‘Gay Marriage and Pulp Fiction: Homonormativity, Disidentification, and Affect in Ann Bannon's Lesbian Novels’, GLQ, 15, 4 (2009), pp. 583609, here p. 583

Gregory Tomso , ‘The Humanities and HIV/AIDS: Where Do We Go from Here?’, PMLA, 125, 2 (2010), pp. 443–53, here p. 443

Daniel Mufson , ‘Same Vision, Different Form: Reza Abdoh's The Blind Owl’, TDR, 39, 4 (Winter 1995), pp. 97107, here p. 97

Nikolaus Müller-Schöll , ‘Theatre of Potentiality: Communicability and the Political in Contemporary Performance Practice’, Theatre Research International, 29, 1 (2004), pp. 4256, here p. 44

John Bell , ‘AIDS and Avantgarde Classicism: Reza Abdoh's Quotations from a Ruined City’, TDR, 39, 4 (1995), pp. 2147, here p. 36

Tim Dean's Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009)

Gregory Tomso , ‘Bug Chasing, Barebacking, and the Risks of Care’, Literature and Medicine, 23, 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 88111

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Theatre Research International
  • ISSN: 0307-8833
  • EISSN: 1474-0672
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-research-international
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