O Solo Homo is a diverse, definitive, and hugely entertaining collection representing the cutting edge of queer solo performance. The pieces in O Solo Homo touch nerves that run deep from sex, politics, community, and health to the struggles and joys of family, friends, and lovers. Peggy Shaw, of Split Britches, revisits how she learned to be butch. The late Ron Vawter, of the Wooster Group, juxtaposes the lives of two very different men who died of AIDS: diva filmmaker Jack Smith and Nixon crony Roy Cohn. Tim Miller, one of the NEA Four, surveys the landscape of gay desire before and after the advent of AIDS. And Carmelita Tropicana, the National Songbird of Cuba,” makes an unforgettable, hilarious return to Havana.
Gay men and lesbians have always taken front and center stage in the theater. From Shakespeare's cross-dressing love interests to Oscar Wilde's witty comedies of mismanners to Eva Le Gallienne and Mary Martin's portrayals of the androgynous Peter Pan, homosexuality and gender blending have found many manifestation in theater. In the mid-1980s, as the New York performance-art scene began to flourish, scores of queer artists launched careers in tiny storefronts, church basements, and empty lofts. By breaking down traditional ideas of "acting," and by being unafraid of dealing with queer sexual content, they changed the style, form, and substance of alternative and mainstream theater. O Solo Homo
is a collection of scripts and texts by the most important of these performers. Some of the material is overtly sexual, as in Tim Miller's "Naked Breath" or Holly Hughes's slyly titled "Clit Notes." But the performers are often as interested in politics and culture as in sex. The late Ron Vawter's exploration of art, betrayal, and the cult of personality in "Roy Cohn/Jack Smith" is brilliant, and Peggy Shaw's treatise on what it means to be butch in a world that celebrates manliness in "You're Just Like My Father" is both deeply shocking and hilarious.
O Solo Homo, with witty and informative notes by Hughes and Roman appearing throughout, is a fine introduction to the new queer theater as well as the politics and artistic theory that fuels it. --Michael Bronski