The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 16
November 16th, 2013
Paula Vogel: 1951. “I only write about things that directly impact my life.” Vogel says. “If people get upset, it’s because the play is working.” It certainly worked for How I Learned to Drive, which explores control and manipulation through the issues of misogyny, pedophilia and incest through the relatively simple metaphor of driving. She won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for it.
Her first major play, The Baltimore Waltz was a comedy about AIDS, in 1990, when AIDS still couldn’t be joked about much. Hot’N Throbbing (1994) looks at the intersection of porn and domestic violence, while The Mineola Twins (1999) portrays women’s experience over the previous thirty years through the eyes of identical twins. The plays are deadly serious, though many of them are also comedies or at least incorporate comedy in them. They are also, as theater theorist Jill Dolan wrote, “at once creative, highly imaginative, and brutally honest.”
Vogel says that her family, especially her brother who died of AIDS in 1988, play a very important role in her plays. “In every play, there are a couple of places where I send a message to my late brother Carl. Just a little something in the atmosphere of every play to try and change the homophobia in our world.” She is also a teacher, having led the graduate playwriting program at Brown University. In 2004, she married Brown University professor and researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling in Massachusetts. In 2008, she left Brown to chair the playwriting department at Yale. She stepped down from that position in 2012.
Glenn Burke: 1952-1995. He was known as “the guy who invented the high five,” when in a game in 1977, Burke was standing on deck as fellow Dodger Dusty Baker was rounding third and headed for home after hitting a home run. As Baker crossed home plate, Burke raised his had. Baker responded by raising his also, and when the two slapped hands, history was made. Believe it or not. And to make the scene complete, Burke then stepped up to the plate and hit a home run of his own.
Burke made another kind of history, after a fashion: he is believed to be the first gay ballplayer who was out to his team mates. According to his 1995 autobiography, Out at Home, Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for his honeymoon if Burke agreed to find a girlfriend and get married. Burke said no. He also angered manager Tommy Lasorda by hanging out with Lasorda’s estranged gay son. The Dodgers soon traded him to the Oakland A’s, where manager Billy Martin called him a faggot in front of his teammates. Burke retired in 1979.
In 1982, Burke became the first former professional league player to come out as gay. He was a hero in his adopted community in San Francisco’s Castro, but without baseball his life soon spiraled downhill. He struggled with drug addiction, and for a while became homeless. He spent several months in prison for grand theft and possession of a controlled substance. His final months were spent with his sister before succumbing to AIDS in 1995 at the age of 42.
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