While conducting research in the archive of New York’s LGBT Community Center, I stumbled across a program for an off-Broadway play that I didn’t recognize. The cover featured a drawing of two nearly naked blond boys, smiling and lounging in relaxed poses. Inside was a photograph of the cast of nine men, most of them wearing only towels around their waists, with one in an S&M harness, one in an enormous Afro wig, and one holding a Siamese cat. Some initial research revealed that the play, set in a gay bathhouse and entitled Tubstrip (Tub strip? Tubs trip?), had run for 140 performances off-Broadway in 1973, then toured to eight cities over nine months, and finally opened on Broadway for a modest run in 1974. By the producer’s own estimate, the show played a total of over 500 performances to an audience of 50,000.
I tracked down a copy of the manuscript for this unpublished play and was pleased to discover that Tubstrip is a well-structured and funny farce, infused with a post-Stonewall sense of gay identity, and, most surprisingly, offering an exuberant depiction of gay sexuality. My research led to an exploration of plays produced in the early years of gay liberation, primarily appealing to gay men who aspired to see their identities and desires, long closeted, finally reflected and affirmed in the culture. I then met with Tubstrip’s director (“Doug Richards”) and playwright (“A. J. Kronengold”), who turned out to be one person: Jerry Douglas, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama who initially used pseudonyms to protect his career in the “legitimate” theatre, but under his own name later became one of the most popular and esteemed directors of pornographic gay films.
The more I learned about Tubstrip, the more strongly I believed that it finally needed to be published. Until now, the only accessible version of the manuscript existed in an archive, and it was an early draft, not reflecting changes made over the course of rehearsing and performing the play. Jerry Douglas shared with me the final draft of the play, as performed on Broadway with Casey Donovan, and this definitive version has now been published by Chelsea Station Editions.
JERRY DOUGLAS is the author of the plays Score and Tubstrip, as well as the novel The Legend of the Ditto Twins. He wrote and directed the classic adult films The Back Row and Both Ways, and he was the founder and editor of the magazine Manshots. Douglas won numerous awards for his films, which include Fratrimony, More of a Man, Kiss-Off, Flesh & Blood, Dream Team, and Buckleroos. He passed away in 2021 at the age of 85.
JORDAN SCHILDCROUT is Professor of Theatre & Performance at SUNY Purchase. He's the author of Murder Most Queer (University of Michigan Press) and In the Long Run: A Cultural History of Broadway's Hit Plays (Routledge). His articles on LGBTQ representation have appeared in Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and The Journal of Popular Culture.