I want to say I was a sophomore in high school, so like 1976 or '77, but my memory is bad. It could have been the following year. Either way, it was during those couple years when I was figuring out why, when I saw Brad Christie standing in line at the water fountain, I was compelled to stand in line behind him and hope that my hand accidentally grazed his butt when he bent over for a drink.
And by figuring out, I mean freaking out.
A friend and fellow writer, a straight man, asked me once a few years ago at a musical theater cabaret event, after 2 or 3 boys in a row had sung songs about coming out, "Why does every song lately have to be about being gay?" As I was pondering the question, the lights went down for the second act and our conversation was cut short, but I've thought about it a lot since then and I think the simple answer is that it hurts less and less to tell these stories.
Despite the fact that the musical theater industry was and is so packed with homosexuals, the larger world was still rabidly homophobic, so we could only very tentatively tell our sad tales and then basically only for emotional shock value. Not that Paul's monologue isn't authentic and beautifully told, but it's there to inform you that being gay is super sad. We have more colors to work with now. (Times have changed. Fun Home is funny, moving, thought-provoking, and masterful, and tells a story with a butch lesbian at its center with layers and layers of complexity that would have been unimaginable in a hit Broadway musical in the late 70s when there was only one layer of gay.)
I had done my research. (There must have been a theater queen or two at the DePauw University library where I worked after school, because the library subscribed to After Dark magazine, the gayest periodical ever to never use the word gay.) So I knew how A Chorus Line was created, that the stories the dancers were telling were true -- Hm. It just occurred to me that A Chorus Line is a devised musical. Maybe the first? -- and from then on, though I was still too afraid to tell my own story to anyone but myself, I knew that if I could make a life in the theater in New York I would be fine.
So I did.
Happy anniversary, A Chorus Line!