Event Title

No-place Like Queer Utopia: Failed Optimism in Musical Theatre

Location

Panel 28: Kearney 314

Start Date

27-10-2012 3:00 PM

End Date

27-10-2012 4:30 PM

Description

As an ideological apparatus, the Musical’s narrative thrust is to reinforce the philosophy of optimism through the acceptance of an individual into society via a socially-endorsed love, usually tied to heterosexual marriage. A character’s failure to enact the appropriate participation in this model is often used as a comedic trope, e.g. “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors and “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” from The Book of Mormon. These musical numbers also demonstrate a deficiency in creating utopian visions: the desires and wishes cannot extend past the character’s present trauma. Thus, their inadequate visions are resistant to progressive action and lead to failure in achieving utopian dreams. Not surprisingly, both musicals conclude with failure – Little Shop ends with apocalypse and The Book of Mormon with excommunication. But there remains a hope in tomorrow despite these situations.

These flimsy hopes are potential, queer utopias that articulate the distance between the American Dream and the traumatized subject. By employing what Judith Halberstam and Heather Love call the queer art of failure, these ‘failed’ modes of being propose alternative realities to hegemonic discourse akin to the ways queers have had to create alternative worlds outside of heteronormative society. Acknowledging the gap between trauma and hope, the audience feels cognitive dissonance within Musical Theatre’s ability to place reality and utopia into dialectics through song, dance, and dialogue. Opening ruptures in the narrative, these musical numbers critique ideologically driven dreams and replace them with the affective drive towards the no-place of utopian practice.

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Oct 27th, 3:00 PM Oct 27th, 4:30 PM

No-place Like Queer Utopia: Failed Optimism in Musical Theatre

Panel 28: Kearney 314

As an ideological apparatus, the Musical’s narrative thrust is to reinforce the philosophy of optimism through the acceptance of an individual into society via a socially-endorsed love, usually tied to heterosexual marriage. A character’s failure to enact the appropriate participation in this model is often used as a comedic trope, e.g. “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors and “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” from The Book of Mormon. These musical numbers also demonstrate a deficiency in creating utopian visions: the desires and wishes cannot extend past the character’s present trauma. Thus, their inadequate visions are resistant to progressive action and lead to failure in achieving utopian dreams. Not surprisingly, both musicals conclude with failure – Little Shop ends with apocalypse and The Book of Mormon with excommunication. But there remains a hope in tomorrow despite these situations.

These flimsy hopes are potential, queer utopias that articulate the distance between the American Dream and the traumatized subject. By employing what Judith Halberstam and Heather Love call the queer art of failure, these ‘failed’ modes of being propose alternative realities to hegemonic discourse akin to the ways queers have had to create alternative worlds outside of heteronormative society. Acknowledging the gap between trauma and hope, the audience feels cognitive dissonance within Musical Theatre’s ability to place reality and utopia into dialectics through song, dance, and dialogue. Opening ruptures in the narrative, these musical numbers critique ideologically driven dreams and replace them with the affective drive towards the no-place of utopian practice.