Edith Windsor on Why Seeing Fun Home Was ‘One of the Greatest Theatre Experiences Of My Life’

Playbill Pride   Edith Windsor on Why Seeing Fun Home Was ‘One of the Greatest Theatre Experiences Of My Life’
 
As part of Playbill's 30 Days of Pride, gay rights activist Edith Windsor shares the profound and emotional response she had upon seeing the new musical Fun Home—again and again.
Lisa Kron and Edith Windsor on the set of <i>Fun Home</i> at Circle in the Square
Lisa Kron and Edith Windsor on the set of Fun Home at Circle in the Square Monica Simoes

I was in my early 80s, but I could have been 18 when I first saw Fun Home and heard the song, "I'm Changing My Major to Joan." What a brilliant and perfect expression of a young person discovering her sexuality. A lesbian, yes—but it could have been anyone.

Lisa Kron and Edith Windsor on the set of <i>Fun Home</i> at Circle in the Square
Lisa Kron and Edith Windsor on the set of Fun Home at Circle in the Square Photo by Monica Simoes

Without compromising the actual purport of Alison Bechdel's wonderful graphic novel about a closeted gay dad and a newly self-discovering lesbian daughter, Lisa Kron has written a book and lyrics that resound universally.

That first viewing downtown was, for me, one of the greatest theatre experiences of my life— not just as a lesbian, but as an avid theatregoer. I would have said that was it, but I saw it three more times—once more downtown and twice on Broadway. And it still evolves. Ms. Kron knows this family so deeply; all of the members of the family are so richly defined that they—the actors and the characters—evolve at every showing. And just when your chest gets tight, young Alison and her brothers emerge from the caskets and dance and sing their glorious FUNeral HOME commercial. And almost everyone in this (straight and gay, mainstream, typical) Broadway audience can relate emotionally and intellectually to some facet of this family onstage.

Maybe only I can make the comparison that follows without being accused of denigrating the importance of my Supreme Court win. Here goes: Just as the content of my positive Supreme Court decision—on which were based 50 federal court wins for marriage equality in 35 states—made it easier for more and more gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to come out of the closet, so does the appearance and success of Fun Home on Broadway—winning awards, packing the theatre, grabbing hearts gay and straight and mainstream—make it daily less frightening, less dangerous, more possible to come out as ourselves.

Edith's Seatmate Susan Muska Weighs In On Lisa Kron's Talent:

While working as a producer for DYKE TV in Manhattan in the 1990s, I covered the cultural beat. Like everyone I knew, I was dying to see entertainment with a lesbian twist. The Five Lesbian Brothers, of whom Lisa Kron was one, stole the hearts of every woman who crammed in to see them at WOW Performance Space. The Brothers were the first troupe of women comedians I'd ever seen who focused solely on creating dramatic comedy hits with clearly lesbian characters. It was remarkable to me at the time that the word hadn't gotten out into the straight or mainstream entertainment community and that the Five Lesbian Brothers weren't world famous for their groundbreaking theatre. They were hilarious, energizing and presented the most engrossing high dramas ever—and yes, we were able to identify with the characters oh so well. And they even gave out promotional refrigerator magnets. I guess the world wasn't ready?

My friends and I continue to follow Lisa's career post-Brothers in her rise as a solo performer and playwright, with such moving and awarded pieces as 2.5 Minute Ride, 101 Humiliating Stories and Well where she explores, through personal stories, big themes like the Holocaust, growing up, and illness vs. wellness. Whatever Lisa writes and performs embodies her personal, quirky and yes, lesbian perspective. It's icing on the cake to see drama where being a lesbian is normative; even today that point of view is rare. Her work is meaningful, gripping, fantastically entertaining, and not to be missed, as all of these qualities are hard to find. These days, I pay more for tickets, no longer being a cultural reporter for DTV, and Lisa's work is performed in places like Lincoln Center and on Broadway. But it's worth it.

When I went to see Fun Home on Broadway with Edie, it felt like it was a kind of homecoming for all of us—Lisa, one of the key players who made the show happen, and us in the audience, appreciating how much things have changed in our own lifetime. Lisa's work is instrumental in contributing to the well-being of lesbians by putting them up front and center, onstage, in a truly human, personal and everlasting way. I am proud that I knew Lisa back when she was starting out in theatre, secretly pleased that I recognized even back then what a huge talent she is and continues to be, and so satisfied that her work is on Broadway getting the accolades from the world at large.

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