Synopses & Reviews
noted novelist and outspoken critic Sarah Schulman offers an account of her growing awareness of the startling similarities between her novel People in Trouble
and the smash Broadway hit Rent
. Written with a powerful and personal voice, Schulman’s book is part gossipy narrative, part behind-the-scenes glimpse into the New York theater culture, and part polemic on how mainstream artists co-opt the work of “marginal” artists to give an air of diversity and authenticity to their own work. Rising above the details of her own case, Schulman boldly uses her suspicions of copyright infringement as an opportunity to initiate a larger conversation on how AIDS and gay experience are being represented in American art and commerce.
Closely recounting her discovery of the ways in which Rent took materials from her own novel, Schulman takes us on her riveting and infuriating journey through the power structures of New York theater and media, a journey she pursued to seek legal restitution and make her voice heard. Then, to provide a cultural context for the emergence of Rent—which Schulman experienced first-hand as a weekly theater critic for the New York Press at the time of Rent’s premiere—she reveals in rich detail the off- and off-off-Broadway theater scene of the time. She argues that these often neglected works and performances provide more nuanced and accurate depictions of the lives of gay men, Latinos, blacks, lesbians and people with AIDS than popular works seen in full houses on Broadway stages. Schulman brings her discussion full circle with an incisive look at how gay and lesbian culture has become rapidly commodified, not only by mainstream theater productions such as Rent but also by its reduction into a mere demographic made palatable for niche marketing. Ultimately, Schulman argues, American art and culture has made acceptable a representation of “the homosexual” that undermines, if not completely erases, the actual experiences of people who continue to suffer from discrimination or disease. Stagestruck’s message is sure to incite discussion and raise the level of debate about cultural politics in America today.
Noted novelist Sarah Schulman offers an account of the startling similarities between her book "People in Trouble" and the smash Broadway hit "Rent", showing how mainstream artists co-opt the talents of "marginal" artists to give an air of diversity and authenticity to their own work. Her book is part gossipy narrative and part behind the scenes glimpse into the New York theater culture.
An interrogation of the play Rent and its commodification of the work and life experiences of gay men, lesbians, and people with AIDS.
About the Author
“Sarah Schulman is one of this country’s best cultural critics and novelists, and what she has to say in this book needs to be heard.”—Alexander Doty, author of Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture“Sarah Schulman writes from a highly-scorned community whose members are generally cast as anonymous freaks in someone else’s play. As Stagestruck makes clear, the titillating history and ideas of these ‘freaks’ are consistently stolen and then corrupted by uptown ‘art’ marketeers out to make a quick buck. But you cannot change the story without changing the moral of the story. ‘Soul stealing’ is punishable in older societies. It is time we caught up.”—Diamanda Galás, performer and composer“Utterly engrossing. . . startling and scary. . . . I have never read a more persuasive account—a wonderfully written one too—of the commodification that has overtaken us, and the disparity of power between the haves and the have-nots. . . . Stagestruck establishes beyond cavil the gross colonization by yuppie straight America of all that is special about gay life. Sarah Schulman remains what she has been: a rare, fearless teller of unpleasant truths.”—Martin Duberman, author of In White America and Stonewall