Today is day 1 of my Stewart/Colbert Rally trip to our nation’s capital.

Entering the theater, all I knew was that someone at my lovely host’s job got us free tickets, and it was at the Kennedy Center. I didn’t know we’d be witnessing a first person account of post-war England, gay liberation, and a drag queen culture.

Bourne was a key figure in Britain’s post-war gay liberation struggle. A Life in Three Acts is Bourne’s story, an autobiography on stage.

Bourne lived in a drag queen commune. The ladies protested, they did drugs, they lived in an abandoned TV studio.

The show was simple–set with a simple chair, side table and a projection screen for photos. Bourne joked with the audience; it was sort of halfway between a one-man show and a presentation. It was different from anything I’d seen before—casual, but obviously rehearsed—I guess the level of effortless performance should be expected from Bourne, who traveled the world with her drag show (short years after performing Shakespeare with Ian McKellan).

And despite the heart-wrenching moments one might expect from such a story: the conflict with Bourne’s father over “what his son had become”, the tragedies and repression that sparked gay liberation, and later, Bourne’s coping with dozens of friends dying of AIDS — really the play was mostly fun. Bourne’s first sexual experiences, for example, were described as matter-of-fact quibs. There was no dramatic “when did I first know I was gay” moment — really, clichés were dodged altogether.

I’m not a theater reviewer, so I’ll stop here. Bourne’s show is excellent, and continuing to tour (it’s at the Kennedy Center for the rest of the weekend.)

To read more about Bette Bourne, visit the Times Online.

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