Monday, June 15, 2009

Intelligent Homosexuals

An article in the Arts section of the New York Times yesterday referencing the premiere of a new Tony Kushner play at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis that I remember hearing was in the offing some time ago. The premiere is part of a larger Kushner festival being mounted by the Guthrie which also features revivals of both parts of Angels in America, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline, or, Change. The new play—given, like Angels’ subtitle, a suitably Shavian moniker (by way of Mary Baker Eddy)—is called The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures.

Pretty much sums up Kushner’s main concerns, I’d say. All wrapped up in the requisite Kushnerian family psychodrama, in which, as reporter Andrea Stevens astutely points out, history is likewise a main character. Except that the family is Italian-American this time, which is a twist. Throw Kushner acting veterans Kathleen Chalfant, Linda Emond, and Stephen Spinella into the mix in prominent roles, and it adds up to what sounds like yet another trenchant theatrical socio-diagnosis of these strange times in which we labour—times which have already in fact announced the end of labour. No doubt this is something dear Tony picks apart in the play. Would that I could jet to Minneapolis tomorrow to see it. The article does mention that a Broadway transfer down the road is a distinct possibility (preceded, of course, by Kushner’s equally requisite rewriting process and a likely workshop at the Public), so hopefully it will remain within my sightlines.

Speaking of intelligent homosexuals, Richard and I attended the memorial service of renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson yesterday, appropriately held at SFU, one of Erickson’s first important commissions (with his then design partner Geoffrey Massey), and my own place of employment since 2002. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the campus (which, as much as I admire it, can look depressingly foreboding in bad weather) showed itself off to stunning effect, emblematically reflecting Erickson’s prime architectural credo of integrating buildings with their natural and environmental settings. It was indeed an elegant and eclectic service, as the write-up in today’s Globe and Mail described it, not to mention perfectly structured, clocking in at exactly one and a half hours.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of reference to Erickson’s queerness and how this might have contributed to his architectural worldview, although Abe Rogatnick, in a wonderful eulogy, did hint at the type of bacchanals that were wont to take place around Erickson’s fabled garden oasis in Point Grey. Rogatnick also movingly mentioned the deaths of loved ones that had preceded Erickson’s—a reference I took to apply in particular to those of Erickson’s two long-term lovers (for more on Erickson’s “gay life,” see the reminiscence published by Hugh Brewster in a recent issue of Xtra! West). But surely how Erickson saw the world and built space—which is to say, decidely aslant—owes much to his sexual identity. How else to explain taking what was originally proposed for the Law Courts of British Columbia—an office highrise—and literally turning it on its side, laying it horizontally across two full city blocks? (Or, for that matter, that SFU gets used so frequently in sci-fi television series?)

We owe the miracle that is Robson Square—and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, and the Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, and my own quirkily “alien” academic institution—in large measure to the queer eye of Arthur Erickson.


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