Home" - winner
of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical - is in its last full week
of performance at the SpeakEasy in Boston as part of its national
tour. And, it’s a must-see!!!
first-ever Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist, and an
all-female creative team to win the Tony. Many of us in the LGBTQ
community know Bechdel for
her long-running lesbian comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,”
ran from 1983 to 2008, and helped educated and shift public opiion
Tolstoy’s quote in the novel “Anna Karenina” states
happy familes are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own
way,” never rang more true than in Alison
Bechdel’s tragicomic “Fun Home.” Based on Bechdel’s
graphic memoir of the same name,
“Fun Home” is
for the family business: a funeral parlor. Also, the nickname is an
appropriate comic spoof to depict the home Bechdel actually grew up
in that was anything but fun.
not your typical “daddy’s girl”
parent-child relationship, “Fun Home” is Bechdel’s
coming out story and her complicated relationships with her father,
Bruce Bechdel. Bruce was a “closeted” gay and suspected
who taught high school English and restored and ran the familial
funeral parlor. His maniacal
perfectionism restoring the
family’s Gothic-revival house kept him icy, preoccupied and
distant from the family. Bruce’s secret life and his
obsessional interest in fitting the house can be seen as his way to
sublimate and to channel his sexual desires for men, especially in an
era where being LGBTQ wasn’t allowed to out the closet.
however, comes out in a different era than her father’s -
1980s, post-Stonewall. And, while the 1980’s was profoundly
shaped by the AIDS epidemic, and homophobic reactions to it, the
LGBTQ community, nonetheless, continued to come out.
catapults Bechdel to tell her coming out story is the death of her
father. Four months after Bechdel comes
out, tragically, her father violently died beneath the wheels of a
fast moving truck. The nagging questions which haunts Bechdel,
throughout the play, is whether her father’s death was an
accident or suicide?
undeniably Bechdel’s coming out story will always be tied to
her father’s death, sadly it also exposes how the invisible
and toxic heterosexist straitjacket her father attempted to wear
profoundly and irrevocably impacted him and the family.
young Alison asked her mother, Helen, why she stayed in the marriage
knowing her father was gay, Helen, replied she gave away her days
and advised Alison not to do the same.
“Days made of bargains I made because I thought as a wife, I was meant to and now my life is shattered and laid bare.
and days and days and days and days and days and days
how it happens”
point of view of the story is told through the adult eyes and
ruminations of Bechdel looking back at her home life and family
up in rural Pennsylvania. The
mode of narration is Bechdel portrayed at three different
age-versions of herself- child Alison, around 8 years old, young
adult Alison, around 19 years old and a college freshman, and adult
Alison at 43 years old, and a cartoonist.
of many moving moments in the play is when the child Alison is in a
diner with her father and sees for the first time -“an
old-school dyke - a butch lesbian making a delivery and is transfixed
by her presence. At her age, Bechdel has neither language nor
emotional maturity to understand what she’s feeling at that
moment, so Bechdel describes the woman as a form of self-validation:
swagger and your bearing
and the just right clothes you’re
Your short hair and your dungarees
And your lace up
And your keys oh
Your ring of keys.
know you. “
Bechdel was asked on the TV,
radio and internet news show “Democracy
Now” by Amy Goodman about that moment in the play, Bechdel told
Goodman the following:
were in Philadelphia ... having lunch in a diner and this woman came
in — this big, burly woman with short hair and men's clothes —
and I was spellbound. My jaw dropped... In that moment, I recognized
that woman: I identified with her; I wanted her; I wanted to be her.
And I knew that that was completely unacceptable.”
play’s universal themes of coming of age, self- acceptance,
death, trauma, and navigating dysfunctional family dynamics
immediately journeys us back to our home life.
open question of whether Bechdel’s father’s death was a
suicide or simply an accident remains. However, being closeted most
of his life, I surmise, Bruce felt like a dead man walking while