By Marc Acito
11 May 2014
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Take a look at the audience of any Broadway show. It's likely that no small amount of the women will be clad in pants; but it's even more likely than none of the men will sport skirts or dresses.
Playwright Harvey Fierstein may have discovered the reason why. His new play, Casa Valentina, his first in 27 years, examines a crucial turning point in gender politics, uncovering a piece of untold history that still effects us today.
The dynamics of such a marriage is part of what motivated Fierstein to shed light on the subject. "When the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as an illness [in 1973], they also declassified homosexual transvestites," the playwright said. "But they did not declassify heterosexual transvestites." He laughed, a sound like a shovel being dragged along gravel. "It's almost as if they were saying, 'We don't expect any better from you people.'"
Dramatizing the psychology of straight men who wear women's clothes provides a number of richly nuanced roles for actors, including Gabriel Ebert (Tony winner for Matilda The Musical) and two-time Tony winner John Cullum.
"[They] have nothing in common," Fierstein said. "Not even the reason why they wear women's clothes."
Fierstein's own interest in women's clothes dates back to 1971, when, as a fledgling 16-year-old actor, he responded to an open call for a play at La MaMa called Pork, written by Andy Warhol. "I was so out of my element," he recalled. Still, Warhol saw something special in the art student, choosing him as the only person from that open call. For his one and only play, Warhol cast Fierstein as an asthmatic lesbian maid.Continued...