The Compton's Cafeteria Riot


The Tenderloin Museum is proud to announce the premier of The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, an original, interactive theater piece directly inspired by the historic riots that launched transgender activism in San Francisco. The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot is an integral piece of the Tenderloin’s identity, and this play offers a singular opportunity for audiences to celebrate the individuals whose tenacious spirit spawned a movement against the long history of discrimination and violence. Attendees will convene for a late night breakfast at the New Village Cafe (a surrogate for the long-gone Compton’s on Turk and Taylor), where a 12 person cast will recreate the neighborhood's seminal act of resistance and immerse the audience in the tribulations of a marginalized community striving for survival and recognition.

In the summer of 1966, a drag queen patron of the Tenderloin’s Compton’s Cafeteria threw her cup of hot coffee in the face of an police officer as he made an unwarranted attempted to arrest her. The riot that followed would come to be known as the United States’ first recorded act of militant queer resistance to social oppression and police harassment. Three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn, the neighborhood’s drag queens and allies banded together to fight back against their ongoing discrimination, beating the cops with their high heels and throwing furniture through the cafeteria windows.

A reflection of the solidarity displayed at Compton’s, The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot is a highly collaborative production. The play was conceived and developed by Bay Area playwright Mark Nassar and Tenderloin Museum director Katie Conry. Nassar wrote the script with legendary neighborhood drag queens Donna Personna and Collette LeGrande, whose first-hand accounts of Compton’s inform the dialogue and direction. Throughout 2017, the play was workshopped extensively at the Tenderloin Museum to incorporate community feedback, and the final result is a groundbreaking hybrid of theater and living history.

While the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot has immense significance for the TLGB community at large, it was a defining moment for the Tenderloin. As such, Compton’s figures prominently in the Tenderloin Museum’s permanent exhibition. The history on display inspired Nassar and Conry to translate this pivotal moment to the stage, and the multi-year project that ensued proved a unique connection between the museum and its community. Special thanks is due to Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman, whose diligently researched, Emmy Award winning documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria saved Compton’s from historical obscurity. Their special programming at the Tenderloin Museum was instrumental in building local awareness. Additionally, this production was made possible by generous grants from the California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Horizons Foundation, and the Neighborhoods Arts Collaborative/ Grants for the Arts.

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot opens on February 22nd, and performances will run Thursday through Saturday for four weeks. Audience members are encouraged to dress in 60s era clothing. Admission includes a meal (breakfast for dinner), but seating each night is limited, so reserve a ticket today!

A number of complimentary tickets have been reserved each night for members of our community who are on a low or fixed income. To apply for one of these free tickets, fill out the short questionnaire at this here:

Hard copy applications are available at the Tenderloin Museum (398 Eddy Street).

* The dialogue and subject matter of the play strives for historical realism, even when that reality is objectionable by today’s standards.

Collette LeGrande is the twice former Grand Duchess of the Ducal Court of San Francisco. She has raised funds for charity in the Tenderloin for 30 years, supporting AIDS Emergency Fund, Magnet, Mama Reinhardt's Toys for Tots, and many others. She has worked at Aunt Charlie’s since 1998 and organizes her own bi-weekly drag show, the Dream Queens Revue.

Mark Nassar boasts a successful career writing plays and screenplays and acting in theater, TV and film. Mr. Nassar is the co-creator of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, the longest running Off-Broadway comedy in New York City history. More recently, he wrote the screenplay for A Line in the Sand, a film directed by Jeffrey Chernov, in which he also played a principal role. In 2008, the film won Best Feature and the Audience Award at numerous film festivals, as well as the Grand Jury prize at the Canada International Film Festival. He also has attended the Djerassi Artists Residency in Woodside, California, where he completed a new play, Shouting in the Wilderness, and is currently playing Sal the owner in San Francisco’s immersive hit, The Speakeasy.

Donna Personna is an artist and performer, who first hit the stage with the legendary Cockettes. She was the subject of the 2013 Iris Prize-winning short “My Mother,” by Jay Bedwani. She serves on the board of directors committees for Trans March and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, working to gain wider visibility for transgender rights.


Kelly J. Kelly is a newly emerging performer, having just appeared on SF stages for the first time in Summer 2017 with her comedy solo show Stepford Wife Wannabe directed by Martha Rynberg. The show was recently selected for the Spring 2018 season of Monday Night Marsh at SF's Marsh Theater (aka The Marsh). Kelly identifies foremost as a writer (memoir, fiction, creative non-fiction) and has read her own works on local stages for LitCrawl & Litup Writers. Her most recent credits include both dramatic and comedic roles in three short plays as part of the 2017 Audience Showcase and Playoffs for The Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco. She has appeared in two films: Transgender Tuesdays (2012) - a documentary; and The Catch (1999) a comedy short about queers and football.

Clair Farley is a trans advocate, actress, and writer. She is the Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Trans Initiatives and was the Director of Economic Development at the San Francisco LGBT Center. Clair starred in the award-winning films including My Life with Mode Media, Red Without Blue on Netflix and American Transgender on National Geographic. She works across the country and internationally to advocate for increased trans media visibility as well as safe and equal employment and housing opportunities for trans and queer people. Follow Clair on Twitter @ClairJoyFarley.

Pleasure Bynight is excited to return to the stage in an acting role. A recent transplant to San Francisco in late 2016, she is excited to promote and teach the history of the movements that created the spaces she loves today. As the youngest daughter of the Haus of Dolls, she performs at various shows around the city including Ethereal Dollhouse, Doubletake, and Pole$exual. If you see her out around the city, she would like you to know that she likes gin & tonics and tequila shots.

Lavale Davis is honored to have a part in telling this important story. Some of his favorite past roles include: Karla in Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls (SF Oasis), Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles (CCCT), Horse in The Full Monty (TVRT), Seaweed in Hairspray (Stage 1), The Bearded Lady in Sideshow (Altarena), and Buttons in Cinderella The Panto (Panto SF). When not performing in plays and musicals he is seen about town as his drag alter ego Coco Buttah.

Jaylyn Abergas can be found twirling hair at Smoke & Mirrors Salon in downtown San Francisco by day, then, by night, twirling her legs as her drag persona Miss J. She has performed on the SF Mainstage at Pride, the largest Pride celebration in the world, for two years in a row, and hopes to continue this tradition. Also, Jaylyn is a member of the SF Carnaval Royalty Committee, in the Mission District, where she samba dances to the beat of her own drum. In 2016, Jaylyn started seriously pursuing her acting career and performed at the Bindlestiff Studio, during the Queer Arts Festival, in Queer as Fuck, a play of short stories. In 2017, Jaylyn came out as Trans and hopes to help make a difference in the world by living her truth and following her dreams out loud and proud.

Shane Zaldivar has been living in San Francisco for 4 years now. Since moving out of Florida to attend Oaksterdam University, drag in the Bay area has become their art-therapy. For Shane, the performer community invites authenticity to shine way beyond the stage. They feel lucky to be a part of the community to showcase fun and genuine expression.

Drew Olvey is a native of Orange County and just recently moved to the Bay Area to pursue a degree in Theater and Performance Studies. Drew spent over 10 years performing for the Walt Disney Company in its theme parks and cruise lines across the world. Recently, he was a performer at the San Francisco Dungeon. He is very excited and thankful to be a part of The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.

Steve Menasche is a conservatory trained actor, musician and martial artist that has toured the world with West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar and The American Folk Theatre. As a voice actor, he has been featured in numerous audio books, national radio and television campaigns. He is also the founder of the Hapkido Institute and continues to teach regularly both here in San Francisco and Internationally. As a drummer, Steve records and performs with the SF Free Jazz Collective when time allows.

Jacob Ritts graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2016 with a BFA in Photography. Recent performance credits include Dionysus in The Bacchae: For Madwomen Only (Liar Liar Theater Collective), Oberon in A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Inferno Theatre), Mashima in A Noh Christmas Carol (Theatre of Yugen) and Tartuffe in Tartuffe (LATEA Theater)

Joseph Paul (JP) is a veteran actor whose 20 year long career began in Chicago on regional television favorites Cupid, What About Joan, and Early Edition. He moved from the Windy City to the Big Apple to study with Sanford Meisner disciple Bill Esper, and, over time, JP accumulated a range of NYC television credits: appearances with Tom Selleck in Blue Bloods, recurring roles on Guiding Light and As The World Turns, as well as guest appearances on Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Law and Order, and 30 Rock. His feature film credits include We Own the Night, The Bourne Ultimatum, and What Women Want. Stage work consists of roles in Tennessee Williams' Small Craft Warnings, John Patrick Shanley's A Dreamer Examines His Pillow, Keith Huff's Steady Rain and others. Joseph has been living in San Francisco for the past 4 years and acts regularly in short films and features.

Barbara Pond is a Bay Area-based actress/singer/dancer, most recently working both onstage (Stark Ravens Holiday Pantomime) and off (co-choreographer, Trial by Jury) at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Favorite theatre credits include The Speakeasy (Ruth), Blithe Spirit (Edith), On the Town (Lucy Schmeeler), and The Sound of Music (Maria/Solano ARTY award, Best Actress in a Musical). She also regularly dances with Le Cancan Bijou and The Decobelles, and sings with La Bella Donna Historical Performers.

PERSIA was born from the burgeoning creative mind of a child in South Central Los Angeles. With degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Art Institute in one hand, and a few pairs of heels in the other, she set out to conquer and revolutionize the drag community. Persia began performing weekly at Esta Noche, the recently closed Latino gay bar in San Francisco. Whilst performing at events around the Bay Area, in Los Angeles, and Mexico—including a few quinceañeras—Persia has also curated art shows, done stand-up, appeared on a few television shows, modeled, and has represented SFMOMA by transforming into Matisse’s “Woman with a hat.”


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