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

History

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 here included Her Sister (1907-08) by Clyde Fitch and Cosmo Gordon Lennox; Lady Frederick (1908-09), Our Betters (1917), and Theatre (1941-42) by W. Somerset Maugham, the latter also by Guy Bolton; Lady Windermere’s Fan (revival, 1914) by Oscar WildeUnder Fire (1915-16) by Roi Cooper MegrueThe Varying Shore (1921-22) by Zoe Akins, with Blythe DalyThe Show-Off (revival, 1932-33) by George KellyGrey Farm (1940) by Hector Bolitho and Terence RattiganBecket (1961), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Laurence Olivier (opened at the St. James Theater); and Ross (1962) by Terence Rattigan (opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theater).

LGBT performers at the Hudson included Harrison Ford in Ranson’s Folly (1904) and Strongheart (1905); Eugene O’Brien in The Builder of Bridges (1909); Alfred Lunt in Clarence (1919-20); Judith Anderson in Cobra (1924); Barbara Stanwyck in The Noose (1926-27); Spring Byington in To-Night at 12 (1928-29); Eva Le Gallienne in Uncle Harry (1942-43; opened at the Broadhurst Theater); Musa Williams in Set My People Free (1948); and Maurice Evans in Man and Superman (1948; opened at the Alvin Theater).

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.

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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