Courting Mae West

The play "COURTING MAE WEST: Sex, Censorship & Secrets" is based on true events during the 1920s when actress MAE WEST was arrested and jailed in New York City for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. Maybe she broke the law - - but the LAW couldn't break HER!

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mae West: The Evening Graphic

"MAE WEST Defies Cops" read the cover of the Evening Graphic on 2 October 1928. But the month of March brought even more trouble into her life than the police raid in autumn.
• • Thanks to Mae's arrest on 9 February 1927, during the very next month — — March 1927 — — the New York State Legislature passed legislation [Section 1140-a of the Penal Code] banning all depictions of homosexuality on the stage.
• • Three years later, when Mae West's "Pleasure Man" trial before Judge Bertini began on 17 March 1930, the District Attorney would charge that Mae violated Section 1140-a by writing another gay play and he also charged her with the crime of maintaining a public nuisance — — an insulting legal handslap typically aimed at speakeasies and skidrow saloons, not playwrights.
• • Lillian Schlissel wrote a fine introduction to her 1997 edition of Mae West's "obscene" plays. Copies of trial transcripts in her Schlissel's book expose the homophobia quietly tolerated in the United States during the 1920s.
• • When Mae West called on Actors Equity for help after the police raided her Broadway plays, the union demured. Why? Because homosexuals were not permitted to join any unions during the Prohibition Era.
• • Mae West's attempts to right a great civil injustice against gay people are dramatized in the play "Courting Mae West," which will be presented in Manhattan by The Annual Fresh Fruit Festival in mid-July. Director Louis Lopardi is leading the fundraising effort currently.
• • According to Artistic Director Carol Polcovar, The Annual Fresh Fruit Festival encompasses theater, performance, poetry, comedy, spoken word, music, dance, visual arts, and some talents that defy categorization. Lesbian and gay artists come from around the city, nation and, indeed, the world.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] by July 19, 2008.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.

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• • Photo: Mae West at 35 years old
• • October 1928 • •

Mae West.

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