It’s almost a cliché that gay kids spend some part of their school years in Drama Club.
Whether drawn to performance or engaged in the more technical aspects of sound, lighting, set design and construction, or wardrobe, many questioning queer kids found a supportive home in Drama Club.
I entered high school in 1969 as an isolated boy with no real social connections. I had a close relationship with one of my English teachers, who was also responsible for handling Drama Club productions. Although I did occasionally perform in comedy sketches (most stolen from Monty Python at the time), my passion was more technical and I quickly took responsibility for managing the lighting of our productions.
What was it about Drama Club that created a safer haven for kids who were different?
In part, I believe, it was the celebratory nature of dramatic expression. Theatre offered an opportunity to step out of the shadows and for brief moments, one could express one’s inner fabulousness with impunity. Moreover, that exuberance was lauded and encouraged within the specific context of theatre endeavors. For many, the opportunity to throw off the oppressive behavioral status quo that was often cruelly enforced in high school peer interactions was a life-saving breath of fresh air. For some, if offered an optimistic vision of what the world could be when we finally made it out of the social pressure-cooker that was high school for so many.
The high school Drama Club in the 1970s was probably the first “safe space” for many queer and questioning kids, at a time when “safe space” wasn’t even really a concept. How the world has changed!