"> Name: Clyde Fitch's play Sapho

Date:  1900 - 1925

Location:  North America

SubjectExplicit Sexuality


Artist: Clyde Fitch, Olga Nethersole, Hamilton Revelle

Confronting Bodies: New York City law enforcement, district attorney, magistrate and theater critics

Date of Action: February 1900

Specific Location: New York City, New York

Description of Artwork: The play "Sapho" is based on the novel written by Alphonse Daudet in 1884. The story is about a young man, Jean Gaussin, who loses his position in society for being seduced by a young woman, Sapho. The tragedy occurs when Sapho must leave Gaussin to raise a child to whom she had given birth before they met.

Description of Incident: "Sapho" toured many American cities before it came to New York's Wallack's Theater in February 1900. Newspapers reported that the play had shock value. Two weeks into its New York run, a reporter complained to the New York police, who alerted the city's district attorney that the play was offensive and obscene. The city magistrate issued warrants for the lead actress, Olga Nethersole, her co-star, Hamilton Revelle, her manager and the manager of Wallack's Theater. All were charged with offending public decency, a misdemeanour. The play closed on March 5; it held 29 performances in the month that it was opened.

Results of Incident: On April 7, one day after the jury aquitted the defendents of all charges, the play reopened to sold out crowds and an extended run. The play reopened again in November 1900.

Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D. Jones

Submitted By: NCAC

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