overview

Opened in 1913, the Booth Theater has been associated with major LGBT performers and creators that include Jill Esmond, Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder, Elisabeth Marbury, Tennessee Williams, Montgomery Clift, Oliver Smith, and Alvin Ailey, among others.

The lesbian-themed play Girls in Uniform (1932) by Christa Winsloe was briefly staged here and told the story of a Prussian schoolgirl who grows attached to her teacher.

Header Photo
Credit: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

The Booth Theater opened in 1913. The biggest hit theater productions with LGBT associations here were:

One lesbian-themed play attempted to open despite the Wales Padlock Law (1927), which forbade the depiction of “sex perversion” on stage. Girls in Uniform (1932) by Christa Winsloe told the story of a Prussian schoolgirl who grows attached to her teacher. It only played a dozen performances at the Booth due to the huge success of the German film version, Madchen in Uniform, that premiered before the play.

Plays with LGBT creators at the Booth Theater included:

  • Too Many Husbands (1919-20) by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Revue Russe (1922) produced by Elisabeth Marbury
  • Dancing Mothers (1924-25) by Edmund Goulding and Edgar Selwyn
  • First Love (1926) by Zoe Akins
  • After All (1931) by John Van Druten
  • The Breadwinner (1931) by W. Somerset Maugham
  • For Services Rendered (1932) by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Distaff Side (1934-35) by John Van Druten
  • One for the Money (1939), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois
  • Two for the Show (1940), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with actor Richard Haydn
  • The Deep Mrs. Sykes (1945) by George Kelly
  • You Touched Me (1945-46) by Tennessee Williams and Donald Wyndham, with actor Montgomery Clift
  • The Would-Be Gentleman (revival, 1946), with costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • The Play’s the Thing (1948), with scenic design by Oliver Messel
  • Come Back, Little Sheba (1950) by William Inge
  • A Visit to a Small Planet (1957-58) by Gore Vidal, directed by Cyril Ritchard, with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with Ritchard in the starring role
  • A Taste of Honey (1961), with production design by Oliver Smith (opened at Lyceum Theater)
  • Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright (1962-63), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with Alvin Ailey
  • Natural Affection (1963) by William Inge, and with scenic design by Oliver Smith
  • The Birthday Party (1967-68), with scenic design by William Ritman
  • Noel Coward’s Sweet Potato (1968), with book, music and lyrics by Noel Coward, and with actor George Grizzard (opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater)
  • Bad Habits (1974) by Terrence McNally, and directed by Robert Drivas
  • All Over Town (1974-75), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Albert Wolsky
  • Mass Appeal (1981-82), with costume design by William Ivey Long
  • Tru (1989-90) based on the words and works of Truman Capote
  • Once on This Island (1990-91), with music and dance arrangements by Stephen Flaherty
  • The Most Happy Fella (revival, 1992), with scenic design by John Lee Beatty
  • An Evening with Jerry Herman (1998), with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, with Herman and Lee Roy Reams
  • Via Dolorosa (1999), with scenic and costume design by Ian MacNeil
  • The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (revival, 2000-01) by Jane Wagner, with Lily Tomlin

 

LGBT performers at the Booth have included:

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (June 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Henry B. Herts
  • Year Built: 1912-13

Sources

  1. Adam Hetrick, “The Work of Broadway’s Gay and Lesbian Artistic Community Goes on Display Nov. 14 When the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation Gallery Presents ‘StageStruck: The Magic of Theatre Design’,” Playbill, Nov. 14, 2007.

  2. Booth Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  3. Internet Broadway Database.

  4. Kaier Curtin, “We Can Always Call Them Bulgarians”: the Emergence of Lesbians and Gay Men on the American Stage (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1987).

  5. The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013.

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