Lesbian Plays and Sapphic Operas - Theatre History

Discover landmark Lesbian plays and operas that shaped theatre history. Featuring countless love triangles, a lezza countess, a priestess of a Sapphic cult... Some seminal theatrical sapphic kisses led to performance bans!

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Lesbian Plays and Operas From 1651 - 2020s

Queer Theatre Censorship

In the first half of the 20th century, theatre companies (including cast members) could be arrested for staging a gay play. In the 2020s - unfairly in some countries homesexuality is still illegal. So far, I have discovered four plays featuring lesbians which were banned in America:

  • 1923 Got Fun Nekome / God of Vengeance (also banned in the UK)
  • 1926 - La Prisonnière / The Captive
  • 1944 - Trio
  • 1999 - Life Versus the Paperback Romance

Why the drama? ......

American Theatre 1926 to 1967: Wales Padlock Law
In 1926 New York State passed the Wales Padlock Law, which prohibited plays “depicting or dealing with the subject of sex degeneracy or perversion”. New York State theaters which broke the Wales Padlock Law could be closed. Although the New York law was not often enforced, and was protested by the theatre community, it had a huge and censorious effect on the Broadway stage. Despite the law, which remained until 1967, ambiguous lesbian and gay characters did manage to make it to Broadway. The lesbian drama Trio performed at the Belasco Theatre was the last Broadway show impacted by the Wales Padlock Law. The play was ordered to close by New York License Commissioner Paul Moss who refused to renew the Belasco Theatre's license if "Trio" remained open; it closed on February 24, 1945.

British Theatre 1843 to 1968: Theatres Act of 1843
Up until 1968, British theatre was at the mercy of censorship. Under the Licensing Act of 1737 and the Theatres Act of 1843 all plays intended for public performance had to be approved and licensed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which was a legal requirement. This was to ban anything indecent, offensive or blasphemous being performed in theatres. Theatre censorship was particularly strict on homosexuality and the depiction of gay men and women on stage. The ban was not quite watertight as slick playwrights found ways of hinting at a character’s sexuality that the Lord Chamberlain may not always discern. For example, in stage directions playwrights may have described a male character as ‘sensitive’, ‘artistic’ or ‘flamboyant and female character as "manly", "Greek"... to tip-off directors and actors that a character held homosexual desires.

The publication in 1957 of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution – better known as the Wolfenden Report recommended that 'homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should be no longer a criminal offence'. Following the publication of the Wolfenden Report, the policy towards the censorship of plays featuring gay characters and dealing with homosexual themes was relaxed. One of the first plays to benefit from this new approach was Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey (1958). In 1967 homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales (and 1981 in Scotland, 1982 in Northern Ireland). Finally, The Lord Chamberlain’s Office role of theatre censor was abolished by the Theatres Act 1968 (a year after the American Wales Padlock Law was abolished).

American Movies 1930 to 1966: The Hays Code 1930
In America, The Motion Picture Production Code (a.k.a The Hays Code, named after its creator Will H. Hays), first published in March 1930, introduced film censorship in the US through stating a series of guidelines to film producers. The Hays Code directly influenced the content of almost every American film made between 1930 and 1966, when the Motion Picture Association of America introduced a ratings system.

These were developed into a series of rules: Crimes Against The Law, Sex, Vulgarity, Obscenity, Profanity, Costume, Dances (i.e. suggestive movements), Religion, Locations (i.e. the bedroom), National Feelings, Titles and "Repellent Subjects" (extremely graphic violence). Apology

Apologies to worldwide slick lesbian plays and lesbian operas not mention herein. I did Google until the cows came home. Interestingly, I found (having seen) far more lezza films than lezza plays :( Groovy budding playwrights, this 2021 with so many resources: the internet for publication, social media for casting calls & marketing, crowdfunding... in bocca al lupo :)

Check out Meghan Brodie Gualtieri's more high brow and informative "Lesbian Broadway: American Theatre and Culture, 1920-1945" PDF.

Lesbian Plays: The Fragrant Companion

1651 - The Fragrant Companion (Play)

After her honeymoon, a newly married wife goes to a temple in Yangzhou, China to burn joss to the gods. There she meets the fragrant daughter of a Lord. It's L.O.V.E at first sight. The ladies hatch a plan to spend the rest of their lives together... a ménage-à-trois marriage!

The Fragrant Companion is considered as being the most significant work of literature that depicts female same-sex love in the entire premodern Chinese tradition. FYI - Li Yu (1611 – 1680) was.. a man! Li Yu was a Chinese performer, playwright, novelist and publisher who lived in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. Same-sex love was also featured in Li Yu's tale Cuìyǎ lóu ("House of Gathered Refinements") and in the collection Wúshēng xì ("Silent Operas").

The Fragrant Companion: A drama in ? acts

Playwright: Li Yu

The Fragrant Companion Premiere: ?

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Erdgeist / Earth Spirit

1895 - Erdgeist / Earth Spirit (Play)

The chronicles of femme fatale Lulu, Part 1: Lulu's first husband dies of heart attack when he finds her embraced with another man, her second husband kills himself over her sordid past, and her third husband - she murders. Lulu also ensnares the lesbian Countess Geschwitz...

In the original manuscript - Die Büchse der Pandora: Eine Monstretragödie (Pandora's Box: A Monster Tragedy), dating from 1894, the 'Lulu' drama was in five acts. Frank Wedekind's publisher refused to publish the complete manuscript so Wedekind subsequently divided the work into two plays: Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904).

Erdgeist: A drama in four acts

Playwright: Frank Wedekind

Erdgeist Premiere: Krystallpalast, Leipzig, 1898

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Criss Cross

1899 - Criss Cross (Play)

Among successful writer Ann admirers are Cecil her young cousin who likes Jack an artist. When Jack comes, Ann gets him to propose to Cecil despite his interest in Anne herself. Who has Ann sacrificed her own love for?

For 1899, surely the quote is not ambiguous "If I were a man, now, it would be so easy. So easy to take her up in my arms and shield her against the whole world".

Rachel Crothers was an American playwright and theatre director and is considered "the most successful and prolific woman dramatist writing in the first part of the twentieth century." She never married.

Criss Cross: A Lesbian play in one act

Playwright: Rachel Crothers

Criss Cross Premiere: ?

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Die Büchse der Pandora / Pandora's Box (Play)

1904 - Die Büchse der Pandora / Pandora's Box (Play)

Femme fatale Lulu, Part 2 - At the end of Erdgeist, Lulu was imprisoned in Germany for the murder of her third husband. Pandora's Box opens with Lulu being sprung out of jail by lesbian Countess Geschwitz, who still in love with Lulu, has swapped identities with her and takes Lulu's place in prison.

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box) is the second part of Frank Wedekind's 'Lulu' plays, the first being Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895). in his preface to the 1906 edition, Wedekind describes Countess Geschwitz as the "tragic central figure of the play".

Die Büchse der Pandora: A drama in three acts

Playwright: Frank Wedekind

Die Büchse der Pandora Premiere: Nuremberg, 1904

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Got Fun Nekome / God of Vengeance

1907 - Got Fun Nekome / God of Vengeance (Play)

Love Triangle 1: A daughter of a Jewish brothel owner, is to be married off to a respectable young man. Unbeknown to her father, she has been secretly having "fun" with the prostitutes who live beneath her family's home and, has fallen in love... with one of the girls of the night.

Sholom Asch's play Got Fun Nekome (Yiddish for God of Vengeance) is thought to represent one of the earliest depictions of lesbians in theatre. God of Vengeance was a sensation from its Berlin premiere in 1907, sweeping Europe and crossing the Atlantic. In Broadway in 1923, it created a such a scandal with the first lesbian passionate kiss between two woman on stage, that the entire company was hauled into court on charges of indecency. On the advice of the Deputy Chief Rabbi, who described it as "offensive.. sordid... and repulsive" it was banned one final time in London in 1946.

God of Vengeance: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Sholem Asch

Got Fun Nekome Premiere: Deutsches Theater, Berlin, 1907

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Mothers (Play)

1915 - The Mothers (Play)

Love Triangle 2: In Cornwall, Selina accuses a widowed neighbour of stealing her husbands attention. By the end of the confrontation, the women hold hands and...

The Mothers is thought to be the first British play that clearly hints at sapphic love. It was written by English writer and women's rights activist Edith Ellis (nee Lees). Her marriage with Havelock Ellis, a intellectual, was unconventional; apparently she was openly lesbian and at the end of the honeymoon poor Havelock retreated to his bachelor rooms. Moreover, Edith had several affairs with women, which her husband was aware of. Incidentally Havelock Ellis co-wrote the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897.

The Mothers: A Lesbian play in ? acts

Playwright: Edith Ellis

The Mothers Premiere: Little Theatre, Chicago, 1915

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Lamp and The Bell (Play)

1921 - The Lamp and The Bell (Play)

Once upon a time, a widower king with a daughter (Beatrice) marries a woman (Octavia), also with a daughter (Bianca). Four years later, Octavia sends Bianca away because she feels the stepsisters are too close...

The Lamp and The Bell by Edna St. Vincent Millay features 48 speaking roles, which she wrote for the 50th anniversary of the founding of Vassar College, an all-woman institution. It is based on the fairy tale Rose White and Rose Red, centering on the love between two women who are stepsisters. Edna attended Vassar College where she had an affair with English actress Edith Wynne Matthison and after graduation and moving to NYC she lived an openly bisexual lifestyle.

The Lamp and The Bell: A drama in five acts

Playwright: Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Lamp and The Bell Premiere: ?

Lesbian Plays & Operas: La Prisonnière / The Captive (Play)

1926 - La Prisonnière / The Captive

Love Triangle 3: A young woman, Irène, who is in love Madame d’Aiguines, is engaged to a young man Jacques...

La Prisonnière premiered in Paris in 1926 and toured Vienna, Berlin (where it set records for attendance) Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium. When it was adapted and produced on Broadway as The Captive, it caused a ruckus in NYC. Throughout the play Mme. d'Aiguines is not seen, but leaves behind small bouquet of violets for Irène, as a symbol of her love. Perhaps the objection was that the character Irène is depicted as a femme lesbian who is attractive, and seductive and contrary to the stereotype of a "mannish" lesbian? Plain clothes police were ordered to monitor The Captive and 160 performances in, the cast was eventually arrested. Attorneys for The Captive secured the release of the cast by agreeing with the office of the District Attorney to withdraw their play from the stage. This prompted the adoption of a state law, The Wales Padlock Law, to deal with obscenity on Broadway.

The Captive: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Édouard Bourdet

The Captive Premiere: Théâtre Fémina, Paris, 1926

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Winter Bound (Play)

1929 - Winter Bound (Play)

Love Triangle 4: Two females share a farmhouse in Connecticut: butch Tony and femme Emily. Their neighbour Chet soon interrupts their domestic life and vies with Tony for the affection of Emily. Who will Emily choose?

Winter Bound appears to be a dramatic adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's novella The Fox, first published in 1922. The Fox was also adapted as movie in 1967 by Mark Rydell. In the novella The Fox, Chet once he has killed rival Tony wins Emily. In Winter Bound Tony...

Winter Bound: A Lesbian melodrama in ? acts

Dir: Thomas Dickinson

Winter Bound Premiere: Broadway, New York, 1929

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Gestern und Heute

1930 - Gestern und Heute (Yesterday and Today) (Play)

Lonely girl at an German all-girls boarding school, develops a crush on a female teacher. Following a school play's after party, she declares her love in front of guests and students...

Christa Winsloe wrote the play Ritter Nerestan (Knight Nerestan) which was produced in Leipzig and then in Berlin it was retitled Gestern und Heute (Yesterday and Today). The play's success led to a 1931 film version called Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform) with Christa as one of the screenwriters. Disappointed with the film's downplaying of the lesbian themes and the ending, Christa wrote and published Das Mädchen Manuela (The Child Manuela), in 1933, which was a bolder novelised version of the screenplay that emphasised the lesbian storyline.

Gestern und Heute: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Christa Winsloe

Gestern und Heute Premiere: Leipzig, 1930

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Girls in Uniform (Play)

1932 - Girls in Uniform (Play)

Lonely girl at an German all-girls boarding school, develops a crush on a female teacher. Following a school play's after party, she declares her love in front of guests and students...

The play Girls in Uniform was adapted by Barbara Burnham from the famous German play, Gestern Und Heute by Christa Winsloe. A young Jessica Tandy is credited in the original cast list for the production at The Duchess Theatre in London. Girls in Uniform featured as a BBC Play of the Month which was aired on Oct 15, 1967 and starred Virginia McKenna Sonia Dresdel and Rachel Kempson

Girls in Uniform: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Barbara Burnham

Girls in Uniform Premiere: The Duchess Theatre, London, 1932

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Children's Hour (Play)

1934 - The Children's Hour (Play)

Love Triangle 4: Schoolteacher starts dating the local doctor unware her best friend and colleague is in love with HER. A very naughty student accuses the friends of having an unnatural relationship...

The Children's Hour was based on a true scandal in Scotland in 1810 about two women in charge of a boarding school accused of having a lesbian affair, and how this scandal destroyed their lives. The case was detailed in the essay "Closed Doors, or The Great Drumsheugh Case" in Bad Companions (1931) by William Roughead. Although the play dealt explicitly with lesbianism and was a great New York theatre success, due to the Hays Code in the 1936's These Three, movie directed by William Wyler, instead of a rumoured lesbian relationship, one of the women was accused of having an affair with the other's fiancé. In 1961, there was a second film version of the play The Children's Hour when the Hays Code had loosened up a bit and though there is an innuendo of coming out between the two teachers - the word "gay" or "lesbian" is not explicitly said.

The Children's Hour: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Lillian Hellman

The Children's HourPremiere: Maxine Elliott Theatre, New York City, 1934

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Love of Women

1937 - Love of Women (Play)

Love Triangle 5: Brigit and Greek Vere work together as a playwriting team. Enjoying the success of their first hit they begin writing a second play when Dr. John appears on the scene in an attempt to persuade Brigit to marry him...

Spolier alert, unlike other love triangle melodramas, Vere already has another female pining for her affection, Jacqueline, the seventeen year old daughter of Lord Stormont, Vere and Brigit's landlord.

Love of Women: A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Aimee and Philip Stuart‎

Love of Women Premiere: Broadway, New York, 1937

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Wise Tomorrow

1937 - Wise Tomorrow (Play)

Love Triangle 6: 1930s NYC, Joan, a young actress, plans to marry Peter. An aging, former star of the stage, Diana Ebury, promises to "mentor" Joan and supervise her career...

The Wales Padlock Law which forbade depictions of homosexuality on stage, was in effect when Wise Tomorrow appeared on Broadway. While Wise Tomorrow does not explicitly convey lesbianism, nonetheless critics identified it as a lesbian play. The identity of playwright Stephen Powys is a mystery. Three years before his death in 1979, playwright Guy Bolton wrote in a New York Times article that his wife, Virginia de Lanty, wrote under the name Stephen Powys.

Wise Tomorrow: A drama in three acts

Playwright: Stephen Powys / Virginia de Lanty‎

Wise Tomorrow Premiere: Broadway, New York, 1937

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Trio (Play)

1944 - Trio (Play)

The first female full professor (of French) at her college, is in danger of losing her live-in young PhD student Janet to young Ray who wants to marry Janet...

The play Trio from the novel by Dorothy Baker caused controversy in Broadway because of its perceived lesbian theme. Starring Richard Widmark, Lydia St. Clair and Lois Wheeler, the play was forced to close after its 67th performance, in 1945, when the City threatened to cancel the license of the Belasco Theater. Moreover, the lesbian drama Trio was the last Broadway show impacted by the Wales Padlock Law, which was passed in 1927 and forbade the depiction of "sex perversion" onstage, including gay or lesbian characters.

Trio (Play): A Lesbian play in three acts

Playwright: Dorothy and Howard Baker

Trio (Play) Premiere: Belasco Theater, 1944

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Killing of Sister George (Play)

1965 - The Killing of Sister George (Play)

Aging lezza "Sister George" actress lives with her young lover. Recently, several of the characters in her BBC soap opera have been killed off - will her beloved character be next?

Though I started watching this via the cult movie by Robert Aldrich, it totally freaked me out and abandoned it. V sorry Beryl Reid - I can't bare a rematch! Apparently the movie was somewhat darker than the play. At least it was a play about lezzas when British theatres were still at the mercy of censorship.

The Killing of Sister George (Play): A Lesbian play in ? acts

Playwright: Frank Marcus‎

The Killing of Sister George (Play) Premiere: Bristol Old Vic, Bristol, 1965

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Confessions of a Female Disorder

1973 - Confessions of a Female Disorder (Play)

The story of a woman's life (Ronnie), from her first first period to realising that she's a... lezza.

Susan Miller is the recipient of two OBIE awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship in playwriting whose work includes the critically acclaimed one-woman play My Left Breast.

Confessions of a Female Disorder: A Lesbian comedic play in two acts

Playwright: Susan Miller‎

Confessions of a Female Disorder Premiere: Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1973

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

1982 - Last Summer at Bluefish Cove (Play)

Unhappy wife leaves her husband to spend some quiet time by herself in the fictional seaside town of Bluefish Cove. Unwittingly she wanders into a group of seven lesbians at the beginning of their annual beachside vacation...

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove was heralded as a landmark piece in Lesbian dramatic literature as the first mainstream play of its kind. Chambers' comedic dialogue, sensitivity to human nature and tender treatment of her characters show the universality of these women's journeys, whether straight or gay.

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove: A Lesbian comedic play in two acts

Playwright: Jane Chambers‎

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove Premiere: Actors Playhouse, New York City, 1982

Lesbian Plays & Operas: A Weekend near Madison

1983 - A Weekend Near Madison (Play)

A weekend reunion of 60's college friends in Madison: David and Doe a married couple, David`s younger brother, Jim, and his former girlfriend, Vanessa now a feminist pop musician on tour with her lesbian lover, Samantha. Vanessa and Samantha want to have a baby but they don't fancy artificial insemination. So Vanessa asks Jim, her old flame, to be the father...

A Weekend Near Madison: A Lesbian comedic play in ? acts

Playwright: Kathleen Tolan‎

A Weekend Near Madison Premiere: Humana Festival at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, 1983

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Neaptide

1986 - Neaptide (Play)

Closeted history teacher Claire keeps her private life quiet, even though two teenage girls at her school have come out, in the hope that she can win custody of her daughter after a divorce...

Neaptide is a modern story of custody battles, sexual identity and gender politics, framed around the ancient myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone. Neaptide won the 1982 George Devine Award and in 1986, became the first play by a living female writer to be performed at the National Theatre, London. In 2017, The National Theatre, launched a brief series of rehearsed readings of plays over the Pride Season to support LGBT+ writing (#ntQueer)- Neaptide was the opening play.

Neaptide: 18 scenes

Playwright: Sarah Daniels‎

Neaptide Premiere: Cottesloe Theatre, National Theatre, London, 1986

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Five Lesbian Brothers

1989 - The Five Lesbian Brothers (Play)

The Five Lesbian Brothers is an American theatre company, formed in 1989, that focuses on lesbian and feminist plays and literature.

Together The Five Lesbian Brothers have written five plays, Voyage to Lesbos (1990), Brave Smiles (1992), The Secretaries (1994), Brides of the Moon (1996), and Oedipus at Palm Springs (2006) – as well as numerous event-specific acts.

Playwrights: Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey and Lisa Kron‎

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Stop Kiss

1998 - Stop Kiss (Play)

Walking late at night in New York City's West Village, Sara and Callie share their first kisses. A nasty homophobic bystander attacks them...

Stop Kiss is still relevant and poignant now as it was back then. In 2019, Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, were subjected to a homophobic attack on the top deck of a London night bus and left covered in blood after refusing to kiss on a bus. A group of young men began harassing them when they discovered the women were a couple, asking them to kiss while making sexual gestures.

Stop Kiss: A Lesbian play in ? acts

Playwright: Diana Son‎

Stop Kiss Premiere: The Public Theater, New York City, 1998

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Boston Marriage (Play)

1999 - Boston Marriage (Play)

Love Triangle 7: Posh Bostonian suffragette and her Mississippi lawyer cousin have eyes for a faith healer's gregarious daughter...

Based on Henry James' 1886 novel The Bostonians which was inspired by his sister Alice, who lived with another woman in Boston. The book is likely to have spurned the term a "Boston marriage" which was historically used to describe the cohabitation of two wealthy women who were independent of the financial support of a man.

Boston Marriage (Play): A Lesbian play in two acts

Playwright: David Mamet

Boston Marriage (Play) Premiere: American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Life Versus the Paperback Romance

1999 - Life Versus the Paperback Romance (Play)

Two young women who meet on a bus, fall in love.

From 200 entries, 17-year-old Samantha Gellar was one of five winners of the Charlotte Young Playwright's Festival and won a $100 cash prize and the chance to have her play "Life Versus the Paperback Romance" produced at The Children's Theater, Charlotte. The artistic director of the Children's Theater, offered to present the play if she changed the lesbian characters to a hetty couple because of a Board of Education rule that stated plays with "homosexual content" could not be performed. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the Great Aunt Stella Center, Time Out Youth, and her parents, Gellar did stage the first professional reading of her play.

Playwright: Samantha Gellar

First professional reading of Life Versus the Paperback Romance: Great Aunt Stella Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1999

Lesbian Plays: Under the Skin (Play)

2013 - Under the Skin (מתחת לעור - Mitakhat La'Or) (Play)

Alternating between two periods in time: in 1991, a young German journalist shows up on a Holocaust survivor's door step in Tel Aviv while, in WW2, the young Holocaust survivor is incarcerated in Neuengamme concentration camp, "meets" German SS camp Aufseherin (guard) and they embark on a secret love affair.

During World War II, Anneliese Kohlmann (1921 – 1977) was a German SS camp guard at the Neuengamme concentration camp in the Hamburg suburb Neuengamme, in northern Germany and in April, 1945, Kohlmann assisted in transporting a group of women inmates from slave-labour camp, Hamburg-Tiefstack to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp... more

Under the Skin: A Lesbian play in ? act

Playwright: Yonatan Calderon

Under the Skin Premiere: LGBT center in Tel Aviv, Isreal, 2014

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Indecent (Play)

2015 - Indecent (Play)

Indecent recounts the scandalous controversy surrounding the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, which was ran on Broadway in 1923, and for which the producer and cast were arrested and convicted on the grounds of obscenity as it featured to woman kissing!

Find out more about the play God of Vengeance, in the intro above. Throughout the play's history, some of the objections came from Jews themselves. On the advice of the Deputy Chief Rabbi, who described it as "offensive.. sordid... and repulsive" it was banned one final time in London in 1946. Indecent won: Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award.

Indecent: A Lesbian play in one act

Playwright: Paula Vogel

Indecent Premiere: Yale Repertory Theatre, Connecticut, 2015

Lesbian Plays & Operas: Tipping The Velvet (Play)

2016 - Tipping The Velvet (Play)

Victorian oyster girl from Kent falls in love with a charming music hall male impersonator. They move to London, waitress joins the act - happy. Then cheated upon (of-course), but new loves...

The play Tipping The Velvet is based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Sarah Waters and is staged as music hall.

Tipping The Velvet (Play): A Lesbian play in two acts

Playwright: Laura Wade and Sarah Waters

Tipping The Velvet (Play) Premiere: Lyric Hammersmith, London, 2015

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The Cake (Play)

2019 - The Cake (Play)

Della makes legendary cakes. When the daughter of one of her closest friends, comes back home to get married, and her fiancé is a... fiancée, can Della bake THAT cake?

Gay cake wars:

  • UK - In 2016 the supreme court ruled in favour of a Belfast bakery run by evangelical Christians was not obliged to make a cake emblazoned with the message "support gay marriage".
  • USA - In June 4, 2018 the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The Cake (Play): A dramatic comedy in ? acts

Playwright: Bekah Brunstetter

The Cake (Play) Premiere: Manhattan Theatre Club, NYC, 2019

Lesbian Plays & Operas: The High Table (Play)

2020 - The High Table (Play)

London, Lagos and... the afterlife. Tara and Leah, a young lesbian couple decide to marry. When they visit Tara's parents to get their blessings...

The The High Table was Temi Wilkey's debut play and won The Best Writer award at The Stage Debut Awards 2020 - bravo! Temi is an actor, writer and co-founder & co-director of Pecs, the Drag King collective

The High Table (Play): A Lesbian drama / musical in ? acts

Playwright: Temi Wilkey

The High Table (Play) Premiere: Bush Theatre, London, 2020

Lesbian Plays: Cowboys and Lesbians (Play)

2023 - Cowboys and Lesbians (Play)

17-year-old best friends mockery of snoreville city tropes about young love and girlhood, evolves into ... a realisation that a real love story might, be under their noses!

Cowboys and Lesbians (Play) is based on the same titled novel by Billie Esplen of 2022. Wohoo, it played at Edinburgh's 2023 Fringe Festival at the cool Pleasance Dome, Bristo Square but.. uber pants, I no longer have a family home, in so-missed Edinburgh - I would have loved to have seen it there.

Cowboys and Lesbians (Play): A queer romantic comedy in ? acts

Playwright: Billie Esplen

Cowboys and Lesbians (Play) Premiere: 2023, Park Theatre, Bristol but ?, first performed under the title of Scholar's Creek at the White Bear Theatre (London), in 2022.

Lesbian Operas

Lesbian Operas: Astarté (Opera)

1901 - Astarté (Opera)

Married Heracles, Duke of Argos, plans to undertake a campaign to destroy the Sapphic cult of the goddess Astarte in Lydia. Of course, Heracles falls in love with the Lydian the priestess of Astarte's Sapphic cult, lush queen Omphale...

Astarté is thought to be the first opera, in which lesbian love is represented. Hercules' wife's female ward is shown in drag, observing what appears to be a lesbian orgy. The opera ends with Omphale reconstituting her Sapphic circle on the island of Lesbos, as a chorus sings: "Glory to pleasure".

Astarté: Opera in four acts and five scenes

Playwright: Xavier Leroux

Astarté Premiere: Opéra de Paris, Paris, 1901

Lesbian Operas: Lulu (Opera)

1935 - Lulu (Opera)

An operatic tale of a mysterious young woman, Lulu, who follows a downward spiral from a well-kept mistress in Vienna to a street urchin in London. One of Lulu's admirers is... the lesbian Countess Geschwitz (mezzo-soprano) who tries to help her escape to America.

The opera is an adapation of German dramatist Frank Wedekind's two Lulu plays, Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904). One of Lulu's admirers is... the lesbian Countess Geschwitz (mezzo-soprano) who tries to help her escape to America.

Lulu (Opera): An opera in three acts

Playwright: Alban Berg

Lulu (Opera) Premiere (Incomplete): Zurich Opera House, Zurich, 1935

Lesbian Opera: LiánXiāng Bàn

1954 - Lián Xiāng Bàn (The Fragrant Companion) (Opera)

Cui Jianyun (a newly married wife of the renowned scholar Fan Jiefu) and Cao Yuhua (the daughter of Lord Cao), fall for each other after they meet when Cui goes to a temple to burn joss to the gods after her honeymoon.

Lián Xiāng Bàn: Chinese Lesbian Opera with ? scenes

Playwright: Li Yu written (1651)

Lián Xiāng Bàn Premiere: Peking, 1954

Lesbian Operas: Patience and Sarah (Opera)

1998 - Patience and Sarah (a Lesbian Opera)

Wealthy and well-educated Patience, and a poor farmer's daughter Sarah, fall in love. Of course, their families prevent them leaving together...

The opera Patience and Sarah was formally commissioned by American Opera Projects. Moreover, the opera Patience and Sarah is the first American lesbian opera and was based on the novel Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.

Patience and Sarah: A Lesbian opera with five scenes

Playwright: Paula M. Kimper | Librettist: Wende Persons

Patience and Sarah Premiere: Lincoln Center, New York City, 1998

Lesbian Operas: White Baptist Abba Fan

1998 - White Baptist Abba Fan (Play / Operatic)

White Baptist Abba Fan is a moving autobiographical play about Deborah Cheetham's experiences of being taken from her mother when she was three weeks old, raised by a white baptist family, struggling to find her Aboriginal identity, being a lesbian despite disapproval from her white family and becoming an acclaimed opera singer later in life.

Deborah Cheetham‎ is a member of the "Stolen Children" - an infamous period of Australia's history when indigenous infants were removed from their families as part of the government's long-term plan to assimilate Aboriginal children into the dominant white population.

White Baptist Abba Fan: Dialogue interspersed with snippets of opera.

Playwright: Deborah Cheetham‎

White Baptist Abba Fan Premiere: Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, 1998

Lesbian Musicals & Interactive Shows

Lesbian Musicals & Interactive Shows: The Color Purple (Musical)

2005 - The Color Purple (Musical)

A black Southern American woman struggles to find her identity after suffering abuse from her father and others over four decades.

The Color Purple was the first hit Broadway musical that had a lesbian character as a romantic lead. The musical was based on Alice Walker's 1982 novel of the same name, and goes into more detail over the relationship between Celie and Shug, compared to Spielberg's 1988 movie.

The original Broadway production ran from 2005 to 2008, earning eleven Tony Award nominations and one win in 2006. A Broadway revival ran from 2015 to 2017, earning four Tony Award nominations and won two 2016 Tony Awards - including Best Revival of a Musical.

The Color Purple: A Lesbian muscial in two acts

Playwright: Marsha Norman

The Color Purple Musical Premiere: The Broadway Theatre, New York, 2005

Lesbian Musicals & Interactive Shows: Bad Girls: The Musical

2006 - Bad Girls: The Musical

Life in the Larkhall women's prison - Wing Governor, Helen, falls in love with inmate Nikki...

Bad Girls: The Musical is based on the first season of the ITV1 series Bad Girls and was created by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus (who also created the TV series), with music and lyrics done by Kath Gotts. There have been 200 amateur productions in the UK and worldwide!

Bad Girls: A Lesbian muscial in two acts

Playwright: Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus

Bad Girls: The Musical Premiere: Garrick Theatre, London, 2007

Lesbian Musicals & Interactive Shows: 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche

2011 - 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Interactive Show)

It's 1956, there is only one thing that scares the five widows at the Susan B. Anthony Society For The Sisters Of Gertrude Stein annual quiche breakfast more than an impending communist attack - meat in their quiches!

From the minute the audience arrives, they're going to become a part of the sisterhood. 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche won Best Overall Production at the 2012 New York Fringe Festival.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche: An interactive Lesbian comedy in ? acts

Playwright: Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche Premiere: Dank Haus, Chicago, 2011.

Lesbian Musicals & Interactive Shows: Fun Home (Musical)

2013 - Fun Home (Musical)

Alison, a successful cartoonist, is writing her memoirs. She recalls "Small Alison" struggling against her father and her sexuality and, "Medium Alison" hesitating outside the door of her college's Gay Union...

Fun Home is a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. Among it's various awards, the original Broadway production was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning five, including Best Musical. Jeanine Tesori & Lisa Kron were the first female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score.

Fun Home: A Lesbian muscial in one act

Playwrights: Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori

Fun Home Premiere: The Public Theater, 2013