S(h)ifting through a century of song and significance.
A performance piece that traverses and intertwines a century of Broadway songs and LGBT history which shifts the fey stereotype of gay men and showtunes as a cathartic expression against systematic oppression.
Developed for NUIT ROSE 2016, an annual festival of queer-focused art and performance kicking off Pride Week, BROADS WAY interprets the 2016 festival’s theme of NIGHT SHIFT through its source material (Broadway songs – which are typically performed at night) and their subsequent transformation through the performance when a showtune from each decade is performed and juxtaposed against seminal events of the period that have shaped LGBT consciousness and rights. Unlike most Pride events, BROADS WAY shifts Pride to its historical and political roots.
For instance, the standard “I Dreamed a Dream” from the 1980s musical Les Miserables becomes more than just a showstopper, as its lyrics begin to resonate with a collective loss when contextualized amidst the turmoil of the AIDS crisis. In doing so, BROADS WAY breaks the “weak” feminized portrayal of gay men and musical theater and proposes a potential re-reading as an outlet of sanctioned cathartic expression traced against a history of systematic suppression. This is somewhat validated from the ongoing research into the piece, where as one further regresses back in time, the lyrics become more veiled yet more poignant.
BROADS WAY extends part of Stephen Chen’s oeuvre that reinterprets queer history (such as FEROCITY, SPANKIN, GEBROCHENGEL) to raise awareness, as well as reconnecting the past to the present. Conceptualized as an installation of a gay man performing songs in the safety of his room (which begin in the 2010s and traverse a century back to the 1920s), BROADS WAY plays with the shifting dialectic of personal/performative and itself shifts in each iteration as new contexts and songs are introduced and replace material in previous sets through the night of NUIT ROSE 2016.