Mary Olsen ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The theater has always been seen as a place of love and acceptance for people of all sexualities and gender identifications. On the stage, one can see characters who face the same struggles as LGBTQIA+ people in the real world, depicting their stories and showing others who have not faced these struggles what it is like to be prejudiced against for sexual orientation. Here are the top ten (in no particular order) LGBTQ characters from theater and why they are so beloved.
1. Angel Dumott Schunard- Rent
Angel is a fiery trans-woman in New York City who is infected with AIDS. She is incredibly loving, but she knows when to fight in order to protect herself and her friends. When faced with bigotry, she retaliates with grace but she is far from timid. Along with excellent drumming skills, she has a wonderful spirit even when facing a terror such as AIDS. Angel is a beautiful soul with spunk and an excellent sense of fashion who has delighted audiences since Rent’s opening in 1996.
2. Rod- Avenue Q
Rod may have a fuzzy exterior (literally and figuratively, seeing as he is a puppet) but underneath all that felt, he is facing some serious questions about himself. He has discovered feelings for his roommate, Nicky, tries to assure him that he would be loved no matter what in his song “If You Were Gay” and it proves to be instrumental in Rod’s decision to come out of the closet and he is so relieved afterwards.
3. Maureen Johnson- Rent
Maureen is a bisexual woman who is unafraid to flirt in her day-to-day conversations and with audiences during her one-woman show. She is ambitious and knows what she wants in her career and her love life. Her partner, Joanne, is often threatened by Maureen’s promiscuous nature, but they ultimately realize that their opposing personalities truly do attract. Maureen speaks out for her beliefs and for the little people, and not to mention she looks killer in a Catwoman costume!
4. Hedwig- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig is an “internationally ignored” German singer and song-writer in a band. Her sex-change operation was botched, leaving her with an “angry inch” of scar tissue. Though she is constantly bombarded by situations where people that try to “tear her down”, she does not give in.
5. Lola- Kinky Boots
Lola is a drag queen that becomes Charlie’s inspiration for making heels specifically modified to be sturdy enough for a drag show. She is a charismatic performer, but also knows how to deal with hate from audiences even when it is hard not to take it to heart.
6. Joe Pitt- Angels in America
As a Mormon, Joe has been forced to believe he was straight. He was raised to believe that homosexuality is a sin, so his relationship with Louis is incredibly confusing to him and especially terrifying to him when Louis finds out he has AIDS. Joe faces many struggles as he discovers more about his sexuality and his inability to care for his agoraphobic wife.
7. Georges- La Cage aux Folles
Georges is the master of ceremonies at the St. Tropez drag nightclub where his lover works as a performer. These two go to great lengths in order to help Georges’s son impress his fiancé’s homophobic parents, but they ultimately see how hiding their true selves is dishonest and through a bit of blackmail, the parents come to accept the couple.
8. Celie- The Color Purple
Celie is a woman who did not find out what true love is until she met her abusive husband’s girlfriend, Shug Avery. As one of the first focal lesbian relationships in theater, it is a great example of how one can find sanctuary in true love in the purest form.
9. Hänschen Rilow- Spring Awakening
This German private school student is arrogant and knows what he wants. He has a relationship with another student, Ernst Robel, but most remember him as the one who masturbates on stage.
10. Randy and Chad- Almost, Maine
These two are typical, gruff Maine men ice fishing in their flannels. In their scene, “They Fell,” feelings are brought up between them that they are both terrified of at first, but they realize that there is more than friendship between them. These friends show how love comes in all forms, even unexpected ones, and one shouldn’t be biased by stereotypes.
These characters are beloved by the theater community and beyond as their shows become blockbuster movies or HBO specials. Their stories are important and quite relevant as the fight for marriage equality is finally showing some hope. As love for these characters develop, there is more love for people who share stories with them in the world.