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Publication Date

Spring 2014

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre Arts


Alison McKee


Oral History, Women's Theatre, WOW Cafe Theatre

Subject Areas

Theater history; Theater; Women's studies


This thesis looks at the WOW Café Theatre and uses the artists own words to draw a picture of the theatre today. Founded in 1982, the WOW Café Theatre is a non-hierarchical, volunteer run theatre collective located in Manhattan, New York. It is open to all women and people who are transgender. There are no studies chronicling the experiences of the majority of the artists affiliated with this theatre over the course of its 32-year existence, as most of the published scholarship is from the 1980s and 1990s and centers on a handful of WOW's artists. This thesis attempts to gain knowledge beyond what the present scholarship has covered by conducting oral history interviews with nineteen WOW artists, the majority of whom have been active with the theatre over the past ten years. The artists interviewed are Jen Abrams, Vivian Babuts, Jaz Cruz, Olga El, Simin Farkhondeh, Amy Jo Goddard, Lynne Kuemmel, Tom Léger, Kellie Mecleary, Debra Miller, Micia Mosely, Jasmine Presson, Joi Sanchez, Sarah Schulman, Micky Small, Shawnta Smith, Dumeha V. Thompson, Laura Marie Thompson, and Gina Young. A comparison of these oral histories with each other and with earlier scholarship reveals several themes that arise, including how the artists began their affiliation with the theatre, the theatre as a site of community, the challenges of working with a collective structure, and what it means for a theatre to function without an artistic director. This thesis concludes by detailing the affect the WOW Cafe Theatre has had on these nineteen artists.