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‘Queer-Looking, Queer-Acting’: The Subversion of Realism

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Alexandrowicz takes up a feminist critique of realism in “‘Queer-looking, Queer-acting’: The Subversion of Realism,” prompting a re-consideration of the work of Bertolt Brecht. Gender performance lends itself readily to the kind of ‘defamiliarization’ that is at the heart of the Brechtian project. This is followed by a survey of select examples of queer theatre in North America. Many have argued that the theatre, in order to (re)claim its legitimacy and relevance, must relinquish its devotion to psychological realism, which derives from the nineteenth century, given the superior capacities in this regard of film, television, and other media. The project of radical inclusion based on gender may inevitably take us to a reconsideration of the entire art form we know as ‘theatre’ in an age of sharpening environmental and political crises.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-29318-5_6
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  1. 1.

    See (accessed 19 February 2019).

  2. 2.

    See (accessed 19 February 2019).

  3. 3.

    “The Modern Theatre Is the Epic Theatre,” Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. and trans. John Willett (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 37.

  4. 4.

    A great deal has been written about this, of course; for a sampling of how the Quiet Revolution manifested itself in Quebec’s theatre the reader might consider Elaine Pigeon’s essay on the work of Michel Tremblay , and Louise Forsyth’s on Pol Pelletier in Queer Theatre in Canada, ed. Rosalind Kerr and cited extensively further.

  5. 5.

    See (accessed 31 March 2019).

  6. 6.

    See, for example, Sita Popat’s “Missing in Action: Embodied Experience and Virtual Reality,” Theatre Journal 68.3 (2016): 357–378.

  7. 7.

    See and and also note that even the latter website resembles the former (accessed 14 July 2017).

  8. 8.

    I draw the reader’s attention to Queer Theatre in Canada, ed. Rosalind Kerr (Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2007) and Still Acting Gay, John Clum (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

  9. 9.

    To complicate matters even further, of course, Moisés Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater researched, developed, and, in 2000, produced The Laramie Project out of this tragedy. The play went on to achieve phenomenal success, in particular in college and university productions.

  10. 10.

    See (accessed 31 March 2019).

  11. 11.

    I count myself among the many Toronto artists who profited from this largesse. My work was presented a number of times by Buddies in Bad Times , including works based more in ‘dance’ or ‘theatre .’ Such mentorship was animated by generosity of spirit and a genuine interest in experimental practices.

  12. 12.

    Ludlam’s Camille was based on La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils that in turn formed the libretto for the opera La Traviata. It remains in memory as the pre-eminent camp performance: Ludlam played the title role in ‘gender-fuck’ drag —in a wig and dress but with his chest hair clearly visible—and was at once hilarious and heart-breaking.

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Correspondence to Conrad Alexandrowicz .

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Alexandrowicz, C. (2020). ‘Queer-Looking, Queer-Acting’: The Subversion of Realism. In: Acting Queer. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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