Acts of Gaiety explores the mirthful modes of political performance by LGBT artists, activists, and collectives that have inspired and sustained deadly serious struggles for revolutionary change. The book explores antics such as camp, kitsch, drag, guerrilla theater, zap actions, rallies, manifestos, pageants, and parades alongside more familiar forms of "legitimate theater." Against queer theory's long-suffering romance with mourning and melancholia and a national agenda that urges homosexuals to renounce pleasure if they want to be taken seriously by mainstream society, Acts of Gaiety seeks to reanimate notions of "gaiety" as a political value for LGBT activism.
The book mines the archives of lesbian-feminist activism of the 1960s-70s, highlighting the outrageous gaiety that lay at the center of the social and theatrical performances of the era and uncovering original documents long thought to be lost. Juxtaposing historical figures such as Valerie Solanas and Jill Johnston with more recent performers and activists (including Hothead Paisan, Bitch & Animal, and the Five Lesbian Brothers), Warner shows how reclaiming this largely discarded and disavowed past elucidates possibilities for being and belonging. Acts of Gaiety explores the mutually informing histories of gayness as politics and as joie de vivre, along with the centrality of liveliness to queer performance and protest.
"Acts of Gaiety is a great read. Filled with excellent research that sets the various theater productions in context and accompanied by a compelling historical account of the conjunctions of riot and revelry in LGBT liberation movements, it will make an impact on a number of different fields."
—Judith Halberstam, USC
"Acts of Gaiety is an important archive of lesbian performance, remarkable for its revisions of misunderstood histories and its attempt to reactivate the spirit of lesbian feminism. It is a pleasurable read, with a serious purpose: to explore the possibilities afforded by not taking ourselves so seriously."