In this undergraduate senior thesis project, I probed the relationship between power and public performance in mid- to late-twentieth-century America. My subject was Roy Cohn (1927–1986), a figure operating at the intersection of the political and the theatrical whose persona and performance of gender and sexuality have been repeatedly interrogated in theater and on film. Cohn came to prominence as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy and later re-fashioned himself as a celebrity lawyer and powerbroker, serving as a fixer and political mentor for a young Donald Trump. In the ten years after Cohn’s death from AIDS, a diagnosis that “outed” him, the inherent contradictions of the Roy Cohn image emerged in the public consciousness. Through a close reading of representations of Cohn, with a particular focus on his self-presentation in The Autobiography of Roy Cohn and on Tony Kushner’s fictionalization of Cohn in Angels in America and the little-known G. David Schine in Hell, this thesis explores the cultural meaning of “Roy Cohn” in American memory. By examining the interaction of queerness, conservatism, and utopianism in these representations, I offer a complex answer to Donald Trump's March 2017 query, "where's my Roy Cohn?"

Here's the introduction...

 © 2018 by Thomas Peterson.

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Theater Director