Murder Mystery by the Gays, for the Gays: Falling Into the Well of Horniness

Zully Sosa, executive editor

The Augsburg Theatre Department is putting the finishing touches on its final production of the year, “The Well of Horniness.” The play focuses on Vicki , a closeted lesbian in the 1940s, who is framed for the murder of her fiancés’ sister. The small cast and crew reflects the wide spectrum of gender and sexuality the show was written for and adds their own flair to the script’s pre-existing campiness. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the cast members about their interpretation of the play and their experience speaking to playwright Holly Hughes as they wrote an executive new ending for this production. 

The cast members I spoke with were clearly passionate about the show’s unapologetic queerness and campy humor and shared an appreciation for how it subverts or exagerrates gender stereotypes and queer archetypes. Third-year Nina Aguilera Araya, who plays Detective Garnita MiClit, said “as a queer Latina woman is often hard for me to find rooms in which I can feel safe expressing who I am, and this play was the excellent opportunity to do so. Yes of course, it’s a quite campy and ‘over the top’ play, but I mean, lesbians also deserve a space where they can find humour within their identity. It’s okay to laugh and enjoy being gay.” The show also has a rich history of using a gender-bent cast structure which makes it easy for actors identifying outside of the binary to contribute, despite the show itself stating that it’s a play “where the women are women and so are the men.” 

“It’s okay to laugh and enjoy being gay.”

Nina Aguilera Araya

Third-year Danny Reinan commented on this, explaining that “back in the 1980s when the show was originally created, it was performed at gay bars, where every character was portrayed by an all-women cast – even the male characters, who pretty much all fall into some sort of toxically heteromasculine archetype. So the way I see it, my being a non-binary performer acting in this production is part of an existing legacy of gender-bending that dates back 40 years.”

Originally written in 1985, Hughes created the show in an effort to critize the discrimination of the queer community. The cast was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Hughes and get a better perspective on the queer scene in the 80s as well as rewrite a scene that featured the harmful predatory lesbian trope. 

While the cast agreed that the show has held up in relevance and representation for the queer community, there was a scene in the original script that featured sexual harassment between Vicki and a group of lesbian inmates. The show now portrays the inmates as Vicki’s former sorority sisters who assist her prison escape. The rewritten scene has been approved by Hughes.

“A piece of context that I found very helpful was that in the 80s (when the play was written), a majority of feminists believed that pornography was extremely misogynistic and spelled danger for the women’s movement,” shared Melissa Gubrud, who plays Vicki’s fiancé, Rod. “While women’s sexuality was celebrated by feminists, there wasn’t a lot of, well… openly horny sentiment going around, especially in the lesbian community,” she explained. 

Everyone involved in this production has promised shocks and laughs for the audience. It’s clear that this production has been filled with passion and excitement from its cast members and their performances are ready to reflect that energy. 

“The Well of Horniness” will be available to stream on the Augsburg Theater Department’s YouTube Channel this April. To be notified of when the production is released, email the department at theatre@augsburg.edu to subscribe to their mailing list.