Theatre Workshop Of Nantucket Hosting Pride Tea Dance

JohnCarl McGrady •

The Theatre Workshop of Nantucket is hosting a tea dance on Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Chicken Box in association with Nantucket Pride as part of the island’s annual Pride Week celebrations, inspired by the tea dances originating in New York City’s gay community during the 1950s.

“Theatre is inherently a place that’s inclusive,” said the Theatre Workshop’s producing artistic director Justin Cerne. “This seemed like a really lovely way for us to play a part in Nantucket Pride.”

The tea dance, open to all members of the public over 21, will feature music, dancing, a raffle, drag performances, and other events. One of the drag performers, Alexander Cruz, who goes by Reyna Terror while in drag, is part of the cast of Moulin Rouge! on Broadway, and the raffle will include tickets to see the musical. Cruz also appeared on Law and Order: Organized Crime, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Saturday Night Live.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDs, a Broadway-based non-profit that originated to combat AIDs and now also addresses other life-threatening illnesses, including COVID.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to get to do something at the Chicken Box - that’s such an iconic place,” Cerne said. “We’re just going to hope that, most importantly, everyone has a great time.”

The original dances, historically organized on Sunday afternoons, were events for singles to meet and designed as an alternative to going to bars. At the time, it was illegal to serve people who were known to be gay at bars in New York City, and the police would often raid establishments that catered to them. The tradition spread around the country from New York City, continuing after the bans against serving gay people at bars were lifted. There has been a resurgence of interest in tea dances recently, especially at gay vacation destinations.

This tea dance will actually be held at a bar, which Cerne thinks signals the progress made since the 1950s. 

“Anybody can come anywhere now and should be able to receive the same kind of service,” he said. 

Though this tea dance won’t feature tea, there will be drinks available. 

“You could get a Long Island Iced Tea,” Cerne joked.

Cerne also noted that this is not the first tea dance held on Nantucket. He remembers at least one in the past, and there may have been more. He is also hopeful that it won’t be the last.

The event will include a costume contest, and guests are encouraged to come dressed as a flight attendant or airline captain, inspired by the Theatre Workshop’s upcoming production of Boeing, Boeing. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

The tea dance is only one of many events organized for pride week on Nantucket. Other events include an open mic night and an LGBTQ+ resource fair, both at the Corner Table; a screening of 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture at the Dreamland; a Pride Youth Film Festival at the Atheneum; a car parade from Jetties Beach to Tom Nevers; and a cookout at Pip & Anchor.

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