Women Behind Bars

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Women Behind Bars
Written byTom Eyen
Date premieredMay 1, 1975 (1975-05-01)
Place premieredAstor Place Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish

Women Behind Bars is a camp black comedy play by Tom Eyen, parodying the prison exploitation films produced by Universal, Warner Bros. and Republic Pictures during the 1950s.


Set in the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village, there is, among the range of women, an innocent young woman, a chain-smoking street-wise tough girl, and a delicate Southern belle reminiscent of Blanche DuBois. The innocent was framed by her husband on a charge of armed robbery, and is brutalized, betrayed and sexually assaulted throughout her eight-year sentence. She is ultimately broken by the system and leaves jail as a hard-edged, gum-chomping drug dealer. These women are overseen by the prison's sadistic matron and her henchman.


Original 1975 production[edit]

The original production at the off-Broadway Astor Place Theatre opened on May 1, 1975, featuring Pat Ast, Helen Hanft, Mary-Jennifer Mitchell and Sharon Barr. Alan Eichler was co-producer and press representative.[1]

1976 revival[edit]

The play was revived in 1976 at the Truck and Warehouse Theatre in New York with Pink Flamingos star Divine as the matron.[1] It quickly developed a cult following and became a success.[2]

1977 London production[edit]

In 1977 the play, again starring Divine as the matron, had a successful run at the Whitehall Theatre in the West End of London. Fiona Richmond co-starred.[3]

1983 revival[edit]

The play was revived once again in Los Angeles in 1983, directed by Ron Link and featuring Lu Leonard, Adrienne Barbeau and Sharon Barr. The LA production ran for almost a year, first at the Cast Theater and then moving to the Roxy Theatre.[4] Sally Kellerman and Linda Blair later joined the cast.

2012 live reading[edit]

On May 7, 2012, The New Group presented a reading of the play, directed by Scott Elliott.[5][6]


2020 Revival[edit]

A large-scale revival played the Montalbán Theatre in Los Angeles in January, 2020, presented by Winbrook Productions and "Just Pow" Productions.[7][8] The production was conceived and directed by Scott Thompson.[9] A new title song and background score was composed by Fred Barton.



Women Behind Bars continues to be produced by gay repertory companies, such as San Francisco's Theatre Rhinoceros.[10]


The subtle lesbianism apparent in the original B movies is emphasized comedically throughout. The New York Times described the play as "an extraordinarily interesting work from one of America's most innovative and versatile playwrights."[11]


Eyen and Divine wrote a 1978 follow-up play called The Neon Woman, which was produced in New York and San Francisco.[12]


  1. ^ a b ​Women Behind Bars​ at the Internet Off-Broadway Database.
  2. ^ "Divine on stage and screen". www.dreamlandnews.com. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  3. ^ ""Women Behind Bars" 1977 Whitehall Theatre program". www.picclick.co.uk/. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  4. ^ "Louder than Words: Ron Link, 1944-1999". Obituary in LA Weekly. June 9, 1999. Accessed December 5, 2013.
  5. ^ "Broadway Buzz Announcement". www.broadway.com. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  6. ^ ""Women Behind Bars" Photo Gallery". www.broadway.com. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  7. ^ "Montálban Theatre Event Page". www.themontalban.com. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  8. ^ "Broadwayworld Reviews Women Behind Bars". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  9. ^ "Scott Thompson IMDb". www.imdb.com. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  10. ^ "Talkin' Broadway Regional News & Reviews: San Francisco - "Women Behind Bars - 3/25/02". www.talkinbroadway.com. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  11. ^ Frank, Leah D. "Theater Review; PRISON SATIRE WITH BITTER LAUGHS". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  12. ^ "'The Neon Woman' By Eyen Is Staged". Retrieved 2021-06-03.

External links[edit]