A space has been made: bisexual+ stories in musical theatre

Whitfield, S. K. (2020) A space has been made: bisexual+ stories in musical theatre. Theatre Topics, 30 (2) E5-E12. ISSN 1054-8378 (print) 1086-3346 (online)


It is 2018 and I am sitting in the Neptune Theatre, Halifax, Canada. I'm watching the Canadian premiere of the musical theatre adaptation of The Color Purple directed by Kimberley Rampersad—the first time the show has been directed by a black woman. It is also the first-ever positive representation of my own sexuality that I have been able to witness in the form that I have spent almost two decades studying, researching, and writing about: musical theatre. As I watch the character of Shrug Avery (Karen Burthwright) delight in the fluidity of her own sexual desire, a desire above and beyond gender, it feels like a space has been made. I'm crying but it's complicated. Joy? Sadness? Recognition? I am writing from the perspective of a bisexual+ cis-gendered white British woman, so it is important to note the many kinds of privilege that shape the experiences I am talking about, especially when addressing this musical. The Color Purple (2005) is especially important in the space it makes for PoC, and women of color. This has been written about both in reference to the musical (Edney; Lovelock) and the novel (Bealer), and by Alice Walker herself. For me, it is the first time I have seen what it is to be bisexual on a stage, while I recognize this musical does many more important things than that in connection to race and sexuality. Its powerful story makes ripples. ***** An accepted manuscript version of this article is available open access on WIRE (Wolverhampton Intellectual Repository and E-Theses) at https://wlv.openrepository.com/handle/2436/623212 *****

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