Based on remarkably true events, The Gorgeous Nothings is a fantastical play that reconstructs the extraordinary, campy, and sometimes heartbreaking history of a group of homosexuals unjustly imprisoned and quarantined on New York City’s Welfare Island (later renamed Roosevelt Island) during the 1930s for committing “lewd and unnatural acts which offend the public decency” (NYC’s Penal Law 722, Section 690, of the State of New York).

Blending historical fact and inventive fiction, The Gorgeous Nothings reveals a rich and complex historical tapestry based on reconstructed interviews, archival documents, and prison records. Woven together, these disparate artifacts tell the forgotten story of a community of fearless and fabulous pioneers during the 1930s who led a silent but fierce revolution, bravely building the foundation of the modern gay liberation movement. As noted in George Chauncey’s groundbreaking book, Gay New York, “The gay world that flourished before World War II has been almost entirely forgotten in popular memory and overlooked by professional historians; it is not supposed to have existed.”

Historical photographs from private collections (Sébastien Lifshitz & Arthur Fellig) and the New York Daily News.


This play is made possible in part with support from ART/New York's Creative Space Grant in conjunction with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and SPACE on Ryder Farm.

Research Team MEMBERS

Kyle Cherry, Andrew Dawson, Angela Dohrmann, Anthony Dvarskas, Brian Joseph Ferree, Colby Frederick. Ashley Hamilton, Daniel Hurewitz, Jessica Kahkoska, Matt Kelly, Ashley Marinaccio, Derek McNally, Carrie O'Dell, Nicholas Orvis, Daniel Rattner, Travis Russ, Zach Shultz, Lauren Sullivan, Roniel Tessler, Gareth Tidball, Linnea Valdivia, Rachel Whorton, and Emma Wilk.