Preview: Beebo Brinker
Ann Bannon’s pulp novels about Beebo Brinker, a lesbian living in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 60s, were unlike anything the world had seen when they were published more than a half-century ago. They became a favorite among lesbian literary lovers looking for a glimpse into what life was like before the Stonewall Riot in 1969. All six of the books were adapted for the stage three years ago by playwrights Kate Moira Ryan and Linda S. Chapman to rave reviews.
Most recently, the play’s being produced in Philly as part of GayFest, the newest LGBT theatre festival kicking off Aug. 12. As Ryan enjoys packed houses in New York for her latest project The Judy Show, starring lesbian comedian Judy Gold, we talked to her about what it was like bringing Beebo back to life, and what today’s lesbians might have in common with their fictional “foresisters.”
What can the play tell us today about lesbian life pre-Stonewall?
Well, besides that rent was cheap in the West Village? Community life was lived in the bars and gay people had to remain completely closeted in their work lives, how scary and hidden gay life was and how self hating and destructive gay people grew to be because of homophobia. In the books, Beebo becomes an abusive, abject alcoholic who really, at one point, goes over to the dark side and abuses Laura.