overview

Opened in 1904, the Hudson Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT creators and performers, including W. Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Smith, Laurence Olivier, Barbara Stanwyck, and Eva Le Gallienne, among others.

Two plays with gay male characters that appeared here included Whiteoaks (1938) and the 1963 revival of Strange Interlude (1928).

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2022.

History

The Hudson Theater opened in 1904. Despite the Wales Padlock Law (1927), which forbade the depiction of “sex perversion” on stage, and which remained on the books until 1967, the Hudson Theater presented two plays with gay male characters. According to theater historian Kaier Curtin, Mazo de la Roche’s play Whiteoaks (1938) had “the very first gay character on the English-speaking stage who is rewarded, rather than punished or condemned, for being different.” Actress Ethel Barrymore tells her grandson “I know you’re a queer boy, but I like you – yes, I like you very much.” In 1963, the first revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude (1928) took place here, which had included an early closeted gay man on stage. The Hudson only had one huge LGBT-associated hit – The Voice of the Turtle (1947-48) by John Van Druten (opened at the Morosco Theater).

Productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers at the Hudson included:

 

Legitimate theater ceased here in 1968, and the building was used as a porn theater by 1974. In 1981, it became the Savoy nightclub. Productions resumed at the Hudson Theater in 2017.

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

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: J.B. McElfatrick & Son and Israels & Harder
  • Year Built: 1902-04

Sources

  1. Hudson Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  2. Internet Broadway Database.

  3. Kaier Curtin, “We Can Always Call Them Bulgarians”: the Emergence of Lesbians and Gay Men on the American Stage (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1987), 220.

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