I spent my last week at Yale before summer break working on Pippin, the Dramat's commencement musical, and, although I'm certain that there's an interesting discussion in the gender roles intrinsic to the costume shop (after an afternoon spent alternately doing delicate stitchery and draping chain with a hammer and a vise, my boyfriend exclaimed "I have the best butch girlfriend ever!), I'm more interested in talking about what happened onstage.
Pippin, the show's protagonist, is a young man who becomes increasingly dissatisfied with everything. He loses interest in sex as a means to fulfilment after his participation in a raucous, but empty, orgy which occurs in the first act. As part of the choreography, Pippin is lifted by four male dancers and is briefly lowered onto a series of dancers who lie under him in a very mechanistic interpretation of the sex act.
In the original choreography, all the dancers that Pippin had sex with were female, and lay flat on their backs, until Pippin was lifted off them and they hurried out of the way of the next girl. But sometime between early rehearsals and the performance, one of the female dancers was swapped out for a male dancer, who lay on his stomach while Pippin was lowered onto him.
The dance as a whole was not strictly heteronormative. The pairings of dancers in the background were f/f as ofter as m/f, and were sometimes m/m/m/m, but it was the anal sex acted out by the protagonist that got the biggest audience reaction during performances. At every show, the m/m sex act got an enormous laugh, while the m/f pairings passed unremarked.
Sitting in the audience, I felt vaguely uncomfortable. But I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the appropriate response would be. There's something wrong when its only the gay encounter that reads as a joke, even if the entire sequence is played for laughs. At the same time, I don't know whether the real solution is to insist that homosexuality be treated as identical to and interchangeable with heterosexuality.
What reaction would you have to Pippin's encounter? What would you hope to see from an audience?