What Did the Gay Rights Movement Actually Fight For?

Special Features   What Did the Gay Rights Movement Actually Fight For?
 
That’s the topic being debated by actors Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús in Off-Broadway’s Homos, Or Everyone in America.
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Robin De Jesús and Michael Urie Monique Carboni

When it comes to dating as a gay man in 2016, has monogamy become monotony? It’s a question Jordan Seavey’s Off-Broadway play, Homos, Or Everyone in America, asks, and a question its stars, Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús, can’t really answer.

Urie has been in a monogamous relationship with actor Ryan Spahn for eight years; De Jesús is single. Together, they share a tumultuous onstage relationship, staged in out-of-order vignettes, in which Urie plays the Writer who questions gay marriage and commitment, and De Jesús plays the Academic leading the charge in the fight for marriage equality.

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Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús Monique Carboni

“We should say that the play takes place in the late aughts,” says Urie of the pre-marriage equality setting of the show. “But marriage equality is on the horizon, so in the events of the play, we know it’s coming, or it could come…”

“Or [my character] thinks it’s going to come,” De Jesús interjects.

With 2015’s monumental Supreme Court decision on the horizon, the play—and its characters—have lots of questions.

“Our characters differ about what [the gay rights movement] fought for,” says Urie. “[Robin’s] character feels like we fought for the right to be normal—to be coupled. I feel like we fought for the right to get back to free love and sexual liberation that we had before AIDS. That’s a little bit black and white, but that’s where our characters sort of come from.

“Before I was with Ryan, I definitely liked to date, and I didn’t like to be tied down!” he adds.

That’s just the thing in Homos, Or Everyone in America. It’s not that the Writer doesn’t want the relationship with the Academic—he just doesn’t want to limit himself; he wonders what it would be like to invite a third party into the bedroom. The Academic, however, is content with their twosome.

“In [another] play I did, Domesticated, there was a male character in it who was making an argument that the male was not intended to be monogamous—that there was something primal in him that was meant to sleep with as many women as possible, and that it wasn’t in their nature—and he made pretty great arguments,” De Jesús explains. “I think what’s also happening now is that human beings are becoming so smart that it’s like they’re ‘academiatizing’ sexuality so much that it’s getting even more confusing, culturally, in America. Marriage, the function of marriage, has changed so much.

“Truth is, when I think about a relationship that is successful, there is not a relationship that makes me want to go, ‘I want to be like them,’ and if there is, I don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors, so I think that’s why polyamory and being in open relationships and the discussion about monogamy is changing.”

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Robin De Jesús, Michael Urie, and Aaron Costa Ganis Monique Carboni

Homos, Or Everyone in America sits audiences right in the middle of their intimate exchanges at Off-Broadway’s Bank Street Theater. De Jesús adds, “I feel like you don’t see plays where you get to see two men just be a couple, and the navigating of that. These two men are two educated, intellectual men who know how to have a conversation.”

Urie points out in most families, LGBT children are often the minority, and because of that, gay men don’t usually have an example of a relationship to follow. On the flip side, De Jesús says, “It’s so freeing because it means that you get to create the rules. It’s like reading a book that never ends. There’s no ending because no one actually had it figured out.”

The conversation also seems endless. As the “or” in the title suggests, it may not just be the Homos who have to figure it out, rather Everyone in America.

“I think the idea is that it’s not just about homos,” Urie says, “and homos aren’t just gay people… What these guys are going through, while specifically a gay relationship—they’re two human beings thrust together, and we’re all going through this life, and we’re all on our journeys, and we pair up as we need to.”

Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.

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Aaron Costa Ganis, Michael Urie, and Robin De Jesús Monique Carboni
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