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Oklahoma subtext

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CATSNYrevival
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Oklahoma subtext#1
Posted: 8/28/20 at 1:53pm
Ive been listening to the recent revival cast album of Oklahoma which I did not get to see, and the new Forbidden Broadway album that parodies it. The song mentions the gay subtext, and I remember that topic being mentioned briefly in some of the reviews. Im curious if anyone would care to go into detail on how it was presented in the production or if anyone would care to point out a previous thread or article discussing the subject. Thank you.
MaineTheaterGoer
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Oklahoma subtext#2
Posted: 8/28/20 at 4:08pm

There was a production in 2018 in Oregon with a lesbian Curley and Laurey, and a gay Will Parker and Ado Andy. See this article from the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/theater/oklahoma-same-sex-oregon-shakespeare-festival.html

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Oklahoma subtext#3
Posted: 8/28/20 at 4:39pm

 

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Oklahoma subtext#4
Posted: 8/28/20 at 4:54pm
It’s because in the scene with Curly and Judd in the dark like 5cm away from each others’ face. Personally I didn’t find it to have much gay subtext though. It was more that Curly was a cunning manipulator and was willing to exploit the loneliness of Judd - who was clearly not gay but lacking any kind of social interaction - to achieve his own ends.

I know some might claim it was over directed or a misinterpretation but I miss the revival dearly. I loved everything about it.
"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
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Sutton Ross
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Oklahoma subtext#5
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:04pm

The revival was amazing and there was absolutely no gay subtext in that scene. It was more about toxic masculinity and them basically communicating to each other that they both want Laurey. It was dark and incredibly creative. 

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Oklahoma subtext#6
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:07pm

It might not have been gay subtext, but I don't think the word "homoerotic" would be out of place

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Oklahoma subtext#7
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:11pm

Completely out of place, imo. 

Zion24
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Oklahoma subtext#8
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:14pm

qolbinau said: "It’s because in the scene with Curly and Judd in the dark like 5cm away from each others’ face. Personally I didn’t find it to have much gay subtext though. It was more that Curly was a cunning manipulator and was willing to exploit the loneliness of Judd - who was clearly not gay but lacking any kind of social interaction - to achieve his own ends.

I know some might claim it was over directed or a misinterpretation but I miss the revival dearly. I loved everything about it.
"

This is a pretty good summary- there is an intense scene where they are in each other's faces in a fairly involved way, but it seemed to me to clearly be two dudes sizing each other up as hated rivals- Curly seems seductive and threatening, Jud seems hungry for interaction and ready to snap. I did not get the sense that the production wanted us to think there was some underlying sexual attraction there- and it certainly did want us to think/feel the intense sexual attraction between Curly and Laurie and in a darker way, between Jud and Laurie. 

and yes it was a brilliant production, hurts to think about that empty theater now.

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Oklahoma subtext#9
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:27pm

This is a pretty good summary- there is an intense scene where they are in each other's faces in a fairly involved way, but it seemed to me to clearly be two dudes sizing each other up as hated rivals- Curly seems seductive and threatening, Jud seems hungry for interaction and ready to snap. I did not get the sense that the production wanted us to think there was some underlying sexual attraction there- and it certainly did want us to think/feel the intense sexual attraction between Curly and Laurie and in a darker way, between Jud and Laurie. 

and yes it was a brilliant production, hurts to think about that empty theater now.


Perfectly said, great analysis. Rebecca had such intense chemistry with both Damon and Patrick, it was so, so good. Yeah, I saw it exactly a year ago, and thinking of it dark today breaks my heart. 

FindingNamo
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Oklahoma subtext#10
Posted: 8/28/20 at 5:54pm

I'm with quolbinau.

"The revival was amazing and there was absolutely no gay subtext in that scene. It was more about toxic masculinity"

I'm just thinking a person who can claim this so definitively either doesn't know what "subtext" is or hasn't figured out that "toxic masculinity" is at its root homophobia and misogyny combined. Of COURSE that scene in the dark was homoerotic, because Curley used his toxic masculine charms on everybody to get what he wanted. I mean, the entire gay hanky code came about based on lonely isolated men in the westward expansion of the US. To not even entertain those notions in a production based on taking a fresh look at familiar material, is to willfully remain... kind of dumb?

 

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Oklahoma subtext#11
Posted: 8/28/20 at 6:11pm

If you are with that poster who said "Personally I didn’t find it to have much gay subtext though.", then everything you have written after that is moot and....kind of dumb?

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Oklahoma subtext#12
Posted: 8/28/20 at 11:02pm

Here's a link (below) to an article by Daniel Pollack-Pelzner at Oregon Artswatch. ''The Hidden History of 'Oklahoma!'; Contemporary Reinterpretations of the Classic American Musical May Be Getting Back to Its Root: It's Based on a Play by a Gay Cherokee Man.''

It explores the background of Lynn Riggs, the gay Native American who wrote ''Green Grow the Lilacs,'' the basis of ''Oklahoma!'' For instance:

Stephen Sondheim, whom [Oscar] Hammerstein took under his wing in the summer when he was writing Oklahoma!, said in a recent interview that his mentor “took a play that was about homosexuality in the West and turned it into a sunny musical…beyond what Lynn Riggs had written, about the opening of territories, the promise of America.”

(“The play had distinct homoerotic undertones in the relationship between Curly and Jeeter,” Sondheim clarified in an email; Hammerstein changed Jeeter’s name to Jud in the musical.)

https://www.orartswatch.org/the-hidden-history-of-oklahoma/

 

Updated On: 8/28/20 at 11:02 PM
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Oklahoma subtext#13
Posted: 8/29/20 at 12:16am
qolbinau said: "It’s because in the scene with Curly and Judd in the dark like 5cm away from each others’ face. Personally I didn’t find it to have much gay subtext though. It was more that Curly was a cunning manipulator and was willing to exploit the loneliness of Judd - who was clearly not gay but lacking any kind of social interaction - to achieve his own ends.

I know some might claim it was over directed or a misinterpretation but I miss the revival dearly. I loved everything about it.
"



I wouldn't say that either Curly or Judd in this recent revival had any sublimated desire for the other or for men in general. The first time I saw the show, I did wonder if the production was going there because they aren't just close to each other's faces, it seems like they're about to kiss at least once or twice in that scene. But yeah, I don't think that reading is born out by the rest of the production.

I do think that scene plays as a kind of seduction. Curly tries different tactics, jabbing at Judd's masculine pride, engaging in the homosocial bonding of looking at pornographic pictures, painting a rosy picture of how Judd will be memorialized. It's a kind of devilish/snake in the garden of Eden seduction though.

I do think think that sometimes there are just excess ideas/imagery that don't quite land. I still don't get why dream ballet Laurie almost kisses the actual Laurie. Then again, I hated the dream ballet and didn't find most of the choreography meaningful at all.

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Oklahoma subtext#14
Posted: 8/29/20 at 1:38am

Thank you for the linked articles.

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Oklahoma subtext#15
Posted: 8/29/20 at 4:05am

I saw the OSF production of Oklahoma!  It was wonderful and it was still Oklahoma!  There were lots of young people in the a audience at the performance I saw and they loved it.

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Oklahoma subtext#16
Posted: 8/29/20 at 4:49am

Wayman_Wong said: "Here's a link (below) to an article by Daniel Pollack-Pelzner at Oregon Artswatch.''The Hidden History of 'Oklahoma!'; Contemporary Reinterpretations of the Classic American Musical May Be Getting Back to Its Root: It's Based on a Play by a Gay Cherokee Man.''

It explores the background of Lynn Riggs, the gay Native American who wrote ''Green Grow the Lilacs,'' the basis of ''Oklahoma!'' For instance:

Stephen Sondheim, whom [Oscar] Hammerstein took under his wing in the summer when he was writingOklahoma!, said in a recent interview that his mentor “took a play that was about homosexuality in the West and turned it into a sunny musical…beyond what Lynn Riggshad written, about the opening of territories, the promise of America.”

(“The play had distinct homoerotic undertones in the relationship between Curly and Jeeter,” Sondheim clarified in an email; Hammerstein changed Jeeter’s name to Jud in the musical.)

https://www.orartswatch.org/the-hidden-history-of-oklahoma/


I respect Sondheim, but his comments about Green Grow The Lilacs are nonsense.  The play is not about homosexuality in the West.  Hammerstein changed Jeeter's name to Jud so audiences wouldn't be reminded of Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road.

Are the homoerotic undertones in the play? Perhaps. Today, Native American Theatre scholars make a strong case that  characters in the play are Cherokee.

In the play, the scene after the wedding is dark and unsettling.  In a stage direction, Riggs mentions Laurey comes out of the house in her nightgown and the men may have rapped her.  After Jeeter is killed, Curley is taken off to jail.  In the final scene, Curley has escaped from jail and returns to the farmhouse. The sheriff and his men arrived and demand Aunt Eller turn him over.  She convinces them they should allow Curley to spend the night with Laurey and come back in at the morning to claim him.  The sheriff agrees, but says some of the men will wait outside the house.  Curley has exited into Laurey's room.  We hear him singing Green Grow The Lilacs as the curtain falls.

 

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Oklahoma subtext#17
Posted: 8/29/20 at 7:51pm

Having worked on the production for a bit before its run at St. Anne's, I can confirm that the tension between Jud and Curly being interpreted as homoerotic is not all that unintended. But the interpretation otherwise is not unwelcome either. Whether or not that was changed at all between its run in Brooklyn and Broadway is something I cannot comment on as I opted seeing it in Brooklyn with the anticipation I'd see it on Broadway (long story why). My understanding was that the production would also pepper a few other moments with blink-and-you'll-miss-it queerness, but I must have blinked when I saw it as the only moment I could feel any sort of fabulosity was during Poor Jud Is Dead. That scene/number in the production is one of the most exquisite I've seen too and am so glad they pulled it off and people responded to it the way they did. When I attended, you could hear a pin drop in the space, the audience was 100% focused. 

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Oklahoma subtext#18
Posted: 8/30/20 at 12:42am

FindingNamo said: "

I'm just thinking a person who can claim this so definitively either doesn't know what "subtext" is or hasn't figured out that "toxic masculinity" is at its root homophobia and misogyny combined. Of COURSE that scene in the dark was homoerotic, because Curley used his toxic masculine charms on everybody to get what he wanted."

I appreciate that homoeroticism could be defined in such a way as to include a manipulative charismatic man's using his charm to get what he wanted, but by that definition, there is homoerotic content in countless productions and since such manipulation/charm are often right there in the text, its hardly sub. By the more layman's definition of homoerotic behavior, the fact that Curly manipulates and mistreats Jud does not mean that Curly was sexually attracted to Jud. 

Of course I have no idea what Fish's intentions were here, but given his focus on both characters' intense attraction to Laurie, it seems a stretch to think he wanted that one scene to suggest that both/either man was bi. To each their own interpretation, but hard to square this one. 

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Oklahoma subtext#19
Posted: 8/30/20 at 1:01am

By the more layman's definition of homoerotic behavior, the fact that Curly manipulates and mistreats Jud does not mean that Curly was sexually attracted to Jud.

Or, just by a normal person's definition and not someone who is reaching or desperately looking for something that simply does not exist.

Of course I have no idea what Fish's intentions were here, but given his focus on both characters' intense attraction to Laurie, it seems a stretch to think he wanted that one scene to suggest that both/either man was bi.

Correct. 

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Oklahoma subtext#20
Posted: 8/30/20 at 1:17am

If that is the case, I’m struggling to understand what specifically was seen by some and interpreted as gay or homoerotic so much so that it was mentioned in articles and lampooned in a Forbidden Broadway parody, yet no one seems to be able to point to anything specific in the text or staging of this production. What did some people see that others did not?

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Oklahoma subtext#21
Posted: 8/30/20 at 1:23am
Now that I'm thinking it over, maybe dream ballet Laurie almost kisses Gertie? I can't remember but either way it makes no sense. I'm not a fan of "blink-and-you'll-miss-it queerness." It doesn't say anything.
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Oklahoma subtext#22
Posted: 8/30/20 at 9:18am
Homoeroticism in a scene does not necessarily imply sexual attraction between the characters. The scene was plainly homoerotic.
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Oklahoma subtext#23
Posted: 8/30/20 at 9:59am
Curly ingratiates himself to Jud by sharing and viewing pornography with him. This is enough of a trope that it’s constantly associate with “grooming” of younger boys as sex objects, and the homoeroticism is it is spoofed by Lonely Island on at least one of their songs.
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Oklahoma subtext#24
Posted: 8/31/20 at 12:17am

CATSNYrevival said: "If that is the case, I’m struggling to understand what specifically was seen by someandinterpreted as gay or homoerotic so much so that it was mentioned in articles and lampooned in a Forbidden Broadway parody, yet no one seems to be able to point to anything specific in the text or staging of this production. What did some people see that others did not?"

they have a very intense scene together where they are very much in each others' faces, and both wear tight cowboy attire? 

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Oklahoma subtext#25
Posted: 8/31/20 at 12:46am

Wow, you just described every single episode of Yellowstone!

What did some people see that others did not?"

People see what they want to see, it doesn't mean it was actually there. And since no one can actually give you a real answer, I think your question is now answered.