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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Monday, April 27, 2009

Mae West: Jail Exit

On 27 April 1927, shortly after daybreak, MAE WEST was released from her jail cell.
• • The week before, one of her hometown papers ran with this headline: "Common Nuisance Mae West Goes to Jail."
• • On 20 April 1927 Mae West had been sentenced to ten days in the Women's Workhouse (then located on Welfare Island) in the middle of the East River.
• • During the trial in March and early April — — presided over by Judge George Donnellan — — Mae West had argued in a written statement that her plays were a work of art. Her lawyers made a case that "Sex" was a morally instructive drama. Mae did not take the stand. At Jefferson Market Court, Justice Donnellan had suggested a guilty verdict would be fitting, before the jurors went off to deliberate. Six hours later, the verdict came in. At her sentencing, Mae West was fined $500 and given 10 days to repent at an off-shore detention center.
• • The warden shortened her sentence by two days for good behavior.
• • The play "Courting Mae West" dramatizes the trial and the melee in court when the verdict comes in.
• • Mae was paid $1,000 to write about her experiences for a women's magazine. Some of her essay appears elsewhere on this blog. [Mae donated the $1,000 to the workhouse to establish a library for female inmates.]
• • Released from the lock-up on April 27th, Mae told the reporters — — who were waiting for her like Stage Door Johnnies — — that she had enough material for several plays now.
Criminal street cred served the playwright well when she sat down to write "Diamond Lil" about a woman with a thing for bling, whose motto is, "My career is diamonds."
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes surrounding "The Drag" and "Sex." Scenes in Act I dramatize Mae's interactions with her drag queen cast, the police raid on 9 February 1927, and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" has attracted the attention of a theatre owner and Is now seeking a co-producer for a for-profit production.

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• • Photo: Mae West
• • 27 April 1927 • •

Mae West.

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