Although this book is several years old, Stagestruck has again received cultural relevance. Schulman, the author of early 90s queer novel People in Trouble, goes to great lengths in this nonfiction book to show the extreme similarities and outright plagiarism of her book by the famed stage show RENT.
Schulman takes pains to point out the far-reaching and insidious points stolen from her lived experiences as a lesbian in New York City in the 1980s dealings with the AIDS crisis and it’s extensive effects on the gay male community. Her novel, a story of several interweaving couples, includes tales of a performing artist who left her partner, a straight male filmmaker, for a lesbian as well as the story of a mixed-race couple – a Black drag queen and his AIDS-infected, community organizer lover. Sound familiar? They’re all crusading against gentrification in their neighborhood by a brutal landlord, intent on turning them out on the streets to increase his profits. Hmmm, I’ve heard this one before.
Schulman taps into her academic background for this brutal takedown – she is a well-regarded lecturer and professor in programs across the country on topics such as LGBTQ+ history, Judaism, and fiction writing. Although sometimes somewhat dry, Stagestruck offers a compelling argument. Schulman details her years of conflict with the estate of Jonathan Larson (the creator of RENT), along with commentary offering explanations as to why the community is so willing to overlook Larson’s blatant theft of her intellectual property. Recommended for lovers of nonfiction, musical theater, and queer history.