I’d been hearing about The Daughters for several years from actors who had participated in developmental readings of it around the Bay Area. They were universally rabid with praise and encouraged us to produce it. And when I finally got to see it read at the 2018 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, I immediately joined the chorus and reached out to Patricia about producing it in our Sandbox Series. She was excited by the prospect and we were also lucky to engage Jessica Holt to direct. The Daughters strikes an absolute bullseye in our Empathy Gym. It is a play we simply had to do, not only because it takes us into the lives and hearts of women under-represented in the theatre, but because it is an essential San Francisco story. Like King of the Yees last season, it brings us closer to ourselves and our great city.
The title comes from The Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the US and the courageous women who came together on a fateful night at the apartment of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Facing the fears that had previously isolated them and also the very real physical dangers of assembly, they had to learn how to speak to each other, to build language that addressed their common concerns and forge a consensus around their common cause. As a straight male with no previous understanding of what these struggles were, I am deeply moved by the way these pioneer women faced down the repression that kept them apart and in the dark, and brought their common cause into the light where they could share their sisterhood. That meeting in a modest apartment in San Francisco in 1955 reminds me of other momentous meetings where courageous citizens met in secret to change history.
Another exciting facet of The Daughters is it spans sixty years from the first meeting of the DOB to the closing night of The Lexington Club, the last lesbian bar in San Francisco. It is an epic journey of beginnings and endings. From the search for a safe place to gather, to a time when a different sanctuary was no longer viable. Was the closing of the Lexington a loss? A sign of positive change to a more open society where queer women were free to assemble in more openly integrated spaces? There is certainly no simple answer, but as we watch this eloquent San Francisco odyssey, we are grateful to Patricia Cotter for telling this complex and essential story with compassion and wit.