Queer Theatre and the Legacy of Cal Yeomans
by Robert Schanke
239 pages, $85.
NOT MANY PEOPLE, I suspect, have heard of the playwright Cal Yeomans, but then not many had heard of Samuel Steward before last year, when Secret Historian, Justin Spring’s biography, was published and nominated for the National Book Award. The similarities between the two are striking. Both Yeomans and Steward were writers whose lives were full of the difficulties of homosexuals of their generation; both lived on the margins of artistic success; both were obsessed with sex; and both left behind a treasure trove of papers.
Both men, to continue, grew up in a small town and moved to a big city—Chicago in Steward’s case, New York in Yeomans’s—and both failed to achieve their dreams. Steward ended up writing porn and Yeomans wrote mostly unproduced gay plays. They did belong to different generations. Steward was born in Ohio in 1909, Yeomans in 1938 in a small town on the central Florida coast, from which, once he’d gone to college, he kept running as far as he could—first to Atlanta, where he found work as an actor, director, fashion model, and ultimately as the man in charge of the windows at a department store called Rich’s, and then as a member of LaMaMa, the experimental theatre company on New York’s Lower East Side.