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Theater Companies  
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Another successful company is Chicago's acclaimed About Face Theatre, which states that it is, "dedicated to the creation of performances that examine and participate in the development of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities."

Like several other educational theater companies, About Face also has a Youth Theatre which focuses on the issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, , and questioning youth. Keeping the queer theater tradition of activist entertainment, each year the About Face Youth Theatre does an Educational Outreach Tour, performing in schools around Illinois.

Los Angeles's Ivy Theatre is a relative newcomer to glbtq theater, having been established in 1998. Its original goal was to produce lesbian playwrights, but it has recently broadened its focus to plays that relate to the lesbian experience, whether or not written by lesbians.

Glbtq theater is by no means limited to the country's largest cities or its gay meccas. For example, the Richmond Triangle Players, founded in 1992, produces four or five shows a year in a Richmond, Virginia gay nightclub. Also founded in 1992, SNAP! Productions of Omaha, Nebraska brings glbtq-themed works to a broad and diverse audience in a notoriously conservative area of the country.

The tradition of gay bars as the venue of gay theater also survives. New Orleans' Cowpokes Bar, for example, has a performing space where traveling and local theater companies present works of interest to glbtq people, and Seattle's Re-Bar offers its stage on a regular basis to companies who produce plays and revues such as "The Fallen Women Follies."

Many queer theater companies are collectives in which actors, directors, and playwrights collaborate on all aspects of a production, often exchanging roles in a flexible creative process.

For example, Buffalo's HAG Theatre, founded in 1994, is described by artistic director Margaret Smith as "a multicultural collective of theater artists," whose purpose is "to bring notice and light to lesbians and women, who remain invisible in our culture, and to provide production opportunities for established lesbian writers desperately looking for them."

Other currently active gay and lesbian theater troupes include the Boston-based Erinys Productions, formed in 1997; Stage-Q in Madison, Wisconsin, founded in 2001; théâtre Anima 21, founded in Quebec in 1996; the Lambda Players in Sacramento, started in 1989; and Theatre OUTlanta, which began as the LGBT Theatre Project in 2001, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Queer Friendly Companies

Some theater companies are not specifically gay but have members who are queer or queer allies. Many of these offer a venue for gay productions. For example, St. Louis's That Uppity Theatre Company, founded in 1988, began a lesbian and gay program called Alternate Currents/Direct Currents in 1992.

Since 1994, San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre has produced an increasing amount of glbtq-programming. They have not only produced a number of West Coast and world premieres, but have also commissioned new plays based on glbtq subjects.

Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory Theater produces both gay and non-gay work and sponsors what claims to be "the largest festival of GLBT theatre and performance in America." Since the late 1980s, it has offered a Pride Series each summer, featuring a diverse offering of gay and lesbian plays, often produced for the first time.

Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

literature >> Overview:  Contemporary Drama

Since Stonewall, gay and lesbian drama has flourished, especially in the United States.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Kings and Male Impersonators

A recent arrival in the drag arena, drag kings are part of an international drag movement that emerged in London and San Francisco in the mid 1980s.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

literature >> Overview:  French Theater

French-speaking theater has a long history of depicting male and female homosexuals and in exploring the complexities of homosexual life.

arts >> Barr, Richard

Theatrical producer Richard Barr is most famous for producing the works of Edward Albee, introducing the European Absurdists to Broadway, and presenting the seminal gay drama, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band.

arts >> Busch, Charles

Actor-writer-director Charles Busch has distinguished himself through his virtuouso performances of "grand dame" characters and through his writing of dramatic vehicles for these roles.

literature >> Chambers, Jane

Jane Chambers was one of the first American playwrights to create openly lesbian characters who were comfortable with their own homosexuality.

literature >> Fierstein, Harvey

Award-winning Harvey Fierstein is one of the finest gay male playwrights currently working in the American theater.

arts >> Hoffman, William M.

Playwright, librettist, and educator William M. Hoffman is best known for his ground-breaking play As Is, one of the first theatrical works to focus on the AIDS epidemic.

arts >> Hytner, Sir Nicholas

British director Sir Nicholas Hytner is acclaimed for his work on musicals and plays in London as well as New York, and also for directing films and operas.

arts >> Innaurato, Albert

Playwright Albert Innaurato's plays are as remarkable for the marginalizing ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and body image of their characters as they are for the author's refusal to adopt politically correct attitudes.

arts >> Kaufman, Moisés

Award-winning writer and director Mois├ęs Kaufman specializes in theatrical works that explore watershed moments in glbtq history, such as the Wilde scandal, the murder of Matthew Shepard, and the experience of East Berlin transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

literature >> Kushner, Tony

In addition to being a prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner has become a celebrity spokesman for gay politics and AIDS activism.

arts >> Ludlam, Charles

An innovator in the "Theater of the Ridiculous," actor and playwright Charles Ludlam drew on many elements of camp and farce, but never allowed them to obscure the seriousness of his themes.

literature >> McNally, Terrence

Texas-reared Terrence McNally, whose first play, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, was one of the great scandals of the 1964 New York season, emerged in the 1990s as America's most important gay playwright since Tennessee Williams.

literature >> Patrick, Robert

Robert Patrick is a founding father of gay drama in America and an influence in the development of gay drama in England.

arts >> Quintero, José

Director José Quintero made a significant contribution to theater by reviving interest in the works of Eugene O'Neill.

arts >> Saint, Assotto

Through his contributions to literary and popular culture, Haitian-born American poet, performance artist, musician, and editor and publisher Assotto Saint increased the visibility of black queer authors and themes during the 1980s and early 1990s.

literature >> Shaffer, Sir Peter

British dramatist Peter Shaffer emerged in the 1960s in the paradoxical guise of the last great twentieth-century poet of the numinous who was also capable of writing commercially successful plays that could be turned into equally successful films.

arts >> Split Britches

Having created a unique style, the Split Britches theater company has led the way in innovative lesbian performance.

literature >> Williams, Tennessee

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.

arts >> Wilson, Doric

A pioneer in the development of contemporary gay theater, Doric Wilson was instrumental in Off-Off-Broadway theater in New York City from the early 1960s through the 1980s.

literature >> Wilson, Lanford

In his depictions of gay subjects, Lanford Wilson proved himself to be a powerful voice speaking of the lives of gay men.

arts >> Yeomans, Lee Calvin "Cal"

A trailblazer in post-Stonewall gay theater, Cal Yeomans explored sex and sexuality so directly in his critically-acclaimed plays that it made his work difficult to produce even in the gay community.

arts >> Yew, Chay

Critically acclaimed Asian-American playwright Chay Yew has consistently produced provocative drama addressing issues of racism, homophobia, and censorship.


Clum, John M. Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1999.

Directory of Gay Theater Companies.

Gage, Carolyn. Take Stage! How to Direct and Produce a Lesbian Play. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

Haagensen, Erik. "America's Lesbian & Gay Theater Companies--Then and Now." Back Stage (June 22, 2001):

"Interview with Peggy Shaw."

Sinfield, Alan. Out on Stage: Lesbian and Gay Theatre in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000.

Smith, Iris. "Who Speaks and Who is Spoken for: Playwright, Director, and Producer Joan Lipkin." TDR 38.3 (Fall 1994): 55-67.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Theater Companies  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 28, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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