Le Théâtre Lesbíen, Dykes On Parade

Le Théâtre Lesbíen, Dykes On Parade


San Francisco: Women’s Press Project, [1982].

Offset flyer printed in purple ink with stamp at bottom left corner “Aug 1982,” featuring a collage of famous lesbians and/or lesbian icons including Gertrude Stein and Alice b. Toklas, the Ladies of Langollen, and the pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny. Very good condition. This poster is unrecorded in OCLC, although ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives has a copy, as does the Cherie Gordon Collection at the Lavender Library in Sacramento.

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This version of Dykes on Parade advertised—“A Hersterical Herstorical Theatrical Revue of Lesbian Fashions”—was performed on the 6th and 7th of August 1982 at The Victoria Theatre, in San Francisco, but it was a performance years in the making. 

The bastardized French of Le Théâtre Lesbíen was first coined in 1972 when Patty One Person (later Matty One Person), was asked by a group of Los Angeles lesbians what her acting troupe was called and made up the name in hopes of sounding chic. Along with Cherie Gordon, Patty One Person had written and starred in low-budget, guerrilla-style plays in and around Sacramento State College, often at parties or bars. Their first performance as Le Théâtre Lesbíen was The Homobrontosaurus, written in honor of a Lesbian Symposium planned in by the Sacramento State College Gay Studies Program and featuring a misogynistic husband, Harold, who happens to own two giant lavender brontosauruses—Ugga and Bugga—who eventually liberate his downtrodden wife Hannah. Between 1972 and 1974 they performed numerous plays: The Victoria Affair, or, Prince Albert’s Last Fuck (1972), Dragnet (1972-1974), Dykes on the High Seas (1972), The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke (1973). 

After a hiatus when Patty and Cherie moved to Australia for two years, the two returned to California and bought an old bread truck to transport actors and props, and continued performing as a traveling acting troupe. Around this time they also borrowed an idea from a theatre troupe they had met in Australia—The Shameless Hussies—of creating a dinner theatre. Up until that time, their shows were infamously bawdy, often offensive to lesbians because they included male actors, and harrowing for men as they included castration scenes. But Dykes on Parade was a departure from this style, based on their “herstorical” research, a trend in new books about Parisian lesbians, and their collaboration with activist Pat Lynch (aka Madame Szwambi), who undertook more research and helped compose the play differently from “their crass and vulgar style of writing…to elevate them out of the toilet.” Working with the Sacramento State College Theatre Arts department, the production was the largest yet for Le Théâtre Lesbíen: with twelve actresses and a full stage crew, including lighting and sound technicians. The play premiered at the Playwright’s theatre in Sacramento in June 1976, and again in October at Sacramento City College’s Student Union in spite of some controversy caused by its title. Despite the separation of Patty and Cherie that year, Le Théâtre Lesbíen continued to collaborate with Madame Szwambi on grander productions: From Lesbos to Homophobia (1978) and Cowdykes at the Lavender Corral (1979), satirizing the dyke scene in Berkeley, and its pronounced dichotomy between femme and butch lesbians. In 1982 Madame Szwambi and Cheri Gordon updated and revived Dykes on Parade, with the largest cast yet—twenty women—and toured Sacramento, Berkeley and San Francisco at the Victoria Theatre—the performance advertized here. A review of the play in the August 1982 issue of Coming Up! describes it as a fashion show of lesbian looks throughout history, beginning with Amazons, and marching through time to Queen Christina of Switzerland, the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Reed, and the writers Rene Vivien and Collette, ending with a parody of current lesbian archetypes and imagining a futuristic army of lesbians: “The revue proved overwhelmingly that a committed political group can and does have a sense of humor.”


“Biographical Note,” Cherie Gordon Collection, c. 1970’s-2010, Lavender Library, Sacramento, California, https://studylib.net/doc/8593387/cherie-gordon-collection