Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Until 1970, lesbians in literature were usually portrayed negatively as mannish, “butch” stereotypes, or as “vampires” who control younger women and lead them to destruction. Beth Allen, Chambers’s agent and life partner, named Chambers’s 1974 drama A Late Snow (pr. 1974, pb. 1979) “the first out lesbian play, the first one affirmative of the lesbian lifestyle as a positive experience.” Last Summer at Bluefish Cove won two awards: the Dramalogue Critic’s Circle (1980) and the Villager Downtown Theatre Award (1981). More important, it won a wide audience and general acclaim.

Jane Chambers has been called the most distinguished lesbian dramatist of the late twentieth century. Actor, essayist, novelist, poet, and playwright, she was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Connecticut Educational Television Award, a Eugene O’Neill fellowship, and a Writers Guild of America award. Her work is taught both in women’s studies programs and in writing programs in colleges throughout the United States. She was a founding member of the Interart Theatre in New York City. The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and The Women and Theatre Program of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education created the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award in 1983 to encourage the writing of new plays that address women’s experiences and provide principal roles for women.