overview

LGBT performers, directors, playwrights, and those in associated professions have had an enormous impact on the history of American theater and culture.

However, acceptance even in the theater world did not come without struggle; from 1927 to 1967, the New York Legislature-enacted Wales Padlock Law made it illegal for theaters to show plays that featured gay and lesbian characters (though some productions managed to get around this restriction).

This curated collection spotlights Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway performance venues as well as a sampling of residences of theater notables.

Header Photo caption

Jewel Box Revue performers at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, c. 1960s. Source unknown.

On the Map

 

Featured Historic Sites (15)

A
111 West 44th Street
Opened in 1907 as the Stuyvesant Theater and renamed the Belasco Theater in 1910, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Katharine Cornell, Guthrie... Learn More
B
131 West 55th Street
From 1944 to 1966, New York City Center was the first home of New York City Opera, which featured the works and talents of several notable gay composers and conductors.... Learn More
C
181-189 Second Avenue
The Louis N. Jaffe Art Theater, a former Yiddish theater, was the location of the Mafia-controlled 181 Club (1945-53), known for its lavish shows of female impersonators (a term used... Learn More
D
1634 Broadway
Opened in 1911, the Winter Garden Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Vincente Minnelli, Erte, Beatrice Lillie, Irene Sharaff, Raoul Pene du Bois, Leonard... Learn More
E
253 West 125th Street
During the Apollo Theater’s heyday as a showcase for black performers from the 1930s into the 1970s, nearly every important African-American entertainer played here, including many LGBT stars. In the 1960s,... Learn More
F
23 Beekman Place
“First Lady of the Theater” Katharine Cornell and her husband, director-producer Guthrie McClintic, lived here from 1922 to 1951. Architect Paul Rudolph began renting here in 1961 and later converted... Learn More
G
580 St. Nicholas Avenue
Legendary black performer Ethel Waters lived in this apartment building from at least 1925 to 1927, when she was well known in Harlem's lesbian circles. During this time, an important... Learn More
H
337 Bleecker Street
From 1953 to 1960, playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry resided in the third-floor apartment of this building. While here, Hansberry lived parallel lives: one as the celebrated playwright of A... Learn More
I
580 St. Nicholas Avenue
Legendary black performer Ethel Waters lived in this apartment building from at least 1925 to 1927, when she was well known in Harlem's lesbian circles. During this time, an important... Learn More
J
23 Beekman Place
“First Lady of the Theater” Katharine Cornell and her husband, director-producer Guthrie McClintic, lived here from 1922 to 1951. Architect Paul Rudolph began renting here in 1961 and later converted... Learn More
K
253 West 125th Street
During the Apollo Theater’s heyday as a showcase for black performers from the 1930s into the 1970s, nearly every important African-American entertainer played here, including many LGBT stars. In the 1960s,... Learn More
L
31 Cornelia Street
The Caffe Cino is widely recognized as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway theater and was located on the ground floor of this building from 1958 to 1968. It is also highly... Learn More
M
70 Willow Street
Legendary theater designer Oliver Smith purchased this Brooklyn Heights residence in 1953 and lived here until his death. From around 1955 to 1965, he rented the garden apartment to Truman... Learn More
N
Broadway & 66th Street
Lincoln Center, a world-class performing arts center, has had close connections to the LGBT community since planning began in the mid-1950s. LGBT notables associated with it include architect Philip Johnson,... Learn More
O
59-61 East 4th Street
Formed in 1980, WOW (Women's One World) Café Theatre is considered one of the premiere centers for lesbian, women's, and transgender theater in New York. It has performed in this building... Learn More