Yeah, they did seem to like it. My youngest brother and I, we had this amazing moment of crying together. After the cast left the stage, we just kind of sat there and held each other, which we’ve never done.
Were there any words exchanged?
There were no words. We just let it wash over us. I guess this is what I fantasized might have happened with my book, but of course never did.
One of the things that struck me watching Fun Home was how you and your father took such different paths in reaction to your gay identities. For his generation, being gay wasn’t something you talked about. He didn’t like labels. But then we see you in college, coming of age at a time when there are queer clubs on campus and a clear path of acceptance. Did you ever imagine what your father’s life might have been like had he been born a generation later?
That’s the amazing thing about your book and how it fits in with my story. Your father met with the fate that I feared my father would have met if he had been able to come out. My father died in 1980. And whenever I tried to think, What would it have been like if he lived, if he hadn’t killed himself, all I could imagine was him having AIDS, and dying somehow from AIDS. I couldn’t envision his future. And in fact that is your father’s story.
But before that end (and like your dad, he died before he was 50), there were still many years when my father could live openly and have adventures, feel a sense of community and camaraderie, a sense of self-realization.
Your father’s response to Stonewall was to come out publicly. My father’s response was to burrow even deeper underground.
I had a strange mix of sympathies watching your father deal with those buried feelings in the play. On the one hand, I felt sympathy for his need to stay closeted and how dangerous it must have felt to him if he was outed. But then, there’s the way he takes it out on the family. It was interesting that his angriest outbursts seemed to take place offstage. You would only hear it, and not see it, and in a way, that made it more menacing.
Yes. In earlier versions they had him being more overtly angry on stage in a way that just didn’t work. That was a brilliant solution on their part. Because of course, that’s often how I experienced it too.
In Slate, June Thomas wrote that Fun Home is the first musical about a butch lesbian. How do you feel about that?
When this whole project began, the only reason I proceeded with it was because Lisa Kron would get it right. I think I would have felt more trepidation if it had been anyone else, certainly if it had been a man. I knew Lisa was a lesbian. I know her work. I trusted her to get this right. I trusted that she understood the importance of representing a lesbian accurately.
From the get-go, we had conversations about butch representation, and how impossible that has been historically. When you would see lesbians in a play or a movie they would be played by a straight actress who didn’t get it, who couldn’t quite go there. So we knew that was going to be an issue. And I knew that Lisa would be the person to make that happen, if anyone could.