Terry Baum was born November 27, 1946 in Los Angeles. She describes her early life in LA as a “reasonably happy Jewish middle-class childhood.” During her reasonably happy adolescence, she discovered the joy of theater. For a high school class, she wrote a journalism-themed musical parody of My Fair Lady, retitled My Fair Reporter. While her theatrical career began with songs like “I could have typed all night,” she went on to write and direct plays that tackle political and social issues ranging from gay marriage and the Holocaust to religious conversion and queer history. 

In 1968 while pursuing a degree in theater at Antioch College in Ohio, Terry made her directorial debut with Jack or the Submission. Two years later, Terry received an incredible education when she went to work as legendary feminist and politician Bella Azbug’s personal assistant during her first political campaign, which culminated when Azbug was elected to Congress. 

Many years later, Terry would return to politics. But first, she wrote political plays about gay marriage, including Immediate Family in 1983. After founding a community theater in Santa Barbara, and a feminist theater group called Lilith in San Francisco, Terry moving to Amsterdam in search of more support for her work. While Terry’s professional life flourished, her family increasingly shamed her for coming out as a lesbian and rejected her chosen career path. Still, Terry pursued theater and toured multiple shows throughout the US and Europe. 

Theater and politics are constant threads through Terry’s life. In 1992, she worked for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. By 2003, she was active in the Green Party, and in 2004, she ran an upstart campaign to try and unseat longtime San Francisco congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. After being prevented by law from being listed on the ballot, Terry won 2.9% of the votes—the largest percentage for any write-in candidate for Congress in history.

In 2014, Terry premiered her play “Hick: A Love Story”, based on 2,336 letters from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickok, her intimate friend and, most likely, her lover. Today, Terry continues to create theatrical spaces for narrating LGBTQ stories, giving voice to feminist, queer, gay, and Jewish histories.   

OUTWORDS interviewed Terry in May 2017, on a quintessential San Francisco Spring day. Terry was warm, funny, and feisty. But the most moving part of her interview was hearing how she was only now giving artistic expression to lifelong questions about women’s rage – its beauty, its potency, and why most of our society finds it so incredibly scary.
Terry Baum: [00:00:00] ... performed and she asked for the script. This one monologue about coming ... it's not really about coming out. It's a monologue I wrote before I came out, when I started Lilith Theater in 1974. And the title of it was Bisexual Celibate, or I'm Becoming the Man I Wanted to Marry.
Terry Baum: [00:00:30] So it was sort of coming into myself. And it was at a time when I really wasn't having any ... I thought I wasn't having any sex with men. In fact, in reality I was, but it didn't mean anything to me anymore so in my head I was celibate. Anyhow. So I took that monologue, and I was going to perform it in some academic situation, and you could see all over there, this monologue, that I was going towards being a lesbian,
Terry Baum: [00:01:00] but I couldn't face it. In other words, I was denying it. So I rewrote it, so it goes back and forth between my 1974 self and my current self, with my current self talking. It's like, oh my God, that's a lie. That simply is not true, but you're saying this thing to bolster you not being a lesbian, but it never happened.
Terry Baum: [00:01:30] She wanted a copy of that, so I felt good about that.
Mason Funk: That's great. That's awesome. That's so cool. So when you teach these classes, I guess the assumption is just that the students speak English well enough-
Terry Baum: They do. My friend teaches drama in English. I guess some people really couldn't speak that well, and we did playwriting and some people wrote in English and some people wrote in Arabic. And there was somebody,
Terry Baum: [00:02:00] this one young woman who could translate for me so I would know what was going on. She could do it back and forth. Everybody in Morocco is multilingual. There's the Berber, French, Moroccan Arabic, and classic Arabic. And everybody knows at least three languages there.
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] I one time took a very, very, very, very long bus ride in Morocco to get to the deep south, and I was speaking pigeon French with a kid in the seat next to me the whole time. It was how we communicated for better or for worse.
Terry Baum: Yeah. Well, I spoke French. My French revived for being in Morocco, but not when I was teaching. When I was teaching, I taught in English.
Mason Funk: Well let's get started. Do me a favor, tell me your name, spell it out for me.
Terry Baum: [00:03:00] My name is Terry Baum, T-E-R-R-Y B-A-U-M.
Mason Funk: Okay. And please tell me your birthday and where-
Terry Baum: November ... and where I was born?
Mason Funk: Right.
Terry Baum: November 27th, 1946, in Los Angeles.
Mason Funk: Okay doke. Tell me a little bit about the family that you were born into. Who were they and what were their values, what was kind of like the culture of your family?
Terry Baum: Well, it was middle class Los Angeles-
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] One quick interruption. Try to take my question into your answer, so-
Terry Baum: Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it.
Mason Funk: You know the drill.
Terry Baum: Right, right. My family was very much part of the middle class, or upper middle class, Jewish, Los Angeles community, which meant that part of that was you had subscriptions to all the major cultural institutions. You just did.
Terry Baum: [00:04:00] I mean, it wasn't like my parents and all their friends loved theater. Some of them did, but it didn't matter. If you were Jewish, you had to have a subscription to the Mark Taper and the Ahmanson. I would say it was always not rich, but very comfortable. I had a younger sister, three years younger. She died in 2009.
Terry Baum: [00:04:30] Everybody's gone. I'm an orphan. It was a relatively tranquil, easy childhood. It was assumed that I would always be a good girl and get good grades, but very little was expected of me other than that.
Terry Baum: [00:05:00] I think because I was a girl it kind of didn't matter. When I was much older, I asked my father, I said, "Were you aware that I was special in any way?" And he said, "Well, I was aware you were above average in intelligence." And I said, "Yeah, that's how I remember it too."
Terry Baum: [00:05:30] But despite that, I had a very close relationship with my father. I adored him. We're kind of the exact same person, except different gender and different generation. My mother was a very loving, satisfied housewife. Wanted to be a housewife and a mother.
Terry Baum: [00:06:00] I think was very good mother, but became progressively more and more disenchanted with me as I came into myself after I graduated high school and went away.
Mason Funk: Your mother wanted you to maybe follow her footsteps?
Terry Baum: I remember this was before I came out because she said, "Would you marry a lawyer?
Terry Baum: [00:06:30] If you then have to give up your theater work and have a family and all that?" I said, "No." "Would you marry a ..." she had this long ... "Would you marry a CPA? Would you marry a doctor?" She was trying to find somebody who I'd be willing to give up my theater for. For some reason, I never wanted to get married. Nobody told me. This is my feeling about it,
Terry Baum: [00:07:00] that I was not very good at getting the unspoken messages. So there's an unspoken message that you're a girl, you're supposed to grow up and get married and have children, but nobody actually told me that. I mean, many people are told that, "This is what's going to happen to you," but my parents never did. So it wasn't very deep in me, this feeling that I was going towards this path,
Terry Baum: [00:07:30] this conventional path. I didn't know what I was going towards. I assumed I'd be a teacher because that's what smart girls did. I was always good at school, I always loved school. In junior high school I wrote plays, I wrote musicals, and I was the go-to person if you needed a skip for an assembly. But then, when I got to high school,
Terry Baum: [00:08:00] I realized, oh, girls are not supposed to be that creative, and I just stopped doing any playwriting at all.
Mason Funk: How did you realize that? What-
Terry Baum: Okay. That unspoken message was so powerful and so constant that I got it. I remember ... was this in high school or junior high school? It was the first ... it might have been junior high school.
Terry Baum: [00:08:30] The first serious science class that I had, and it was the science class for the smart kids. But you got extra credit for doing experiments at home. So I loved this idea of experiments, and I was putting seedlings in the closet and seedlings in the window and recording every day.
Terry Baum: [00:09:00] I had seedlings in every room in the house and recording every day how they were progressing. I would do one experiment after another. And then your grade was determined by there was a total number of points. Like, you needed 1,500 points to get an A or whatever, and you got extra points for your experiments. So I had far more points than anybody else in the class, which I thought was pretty cool,
Terry Baum: [00:09:30] and nobody said anything about it. The teacher, the other students, my parents, and I understood. I did not have to be told that, that that was because I was a girl and this was science, and it was extremely embarrassing for me to be better than everybody else in the class.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Terry Baum: Yeah. I got that very clearly. I never got a good grade in science again. Never. I never was interested in it.
Mason Funk: [00:10:00] That's crazy.
Terry Baum: That happened.
Mason Funk: That silence. They didn't have to tell you-
Terry Baum: It was silent. No. It was just silence. That's the message I got. That unspoken message I got from that silence, that this was not okay. And I also knew, somehow I knew that it was also not okay to write plays.
Terry Baum: [00:10:30] But I had absolutely no feeling. I had all these close girlfriends. I had no feeling. I was a late bloomer sexually I would say. I didn't have a lot of sexual feeling when I was young, really.
Mason Funk: So you went up to college. You told me a little bit about going to Antioch, and you ... we're going to have to obviously skip some sections and keep moving forward.
Mason Funk: [00:11:00] So you go to Santa Barbara, you get a master's degree, and I think pretty soon after that, you moved to San Francisco.
Terry Baum: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Is that right?
Terry Baum: I moved to the Bay Area. I moved to Berkeley actually. I moved to Berkeley-
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for one second. Just kind of give me a little bit of, "I went to college, I got my master's degree" et cetera.
Terry Baum: Yeah, yeah, yeah. As a kid in LA, you know you're supposed to go to a UC,
Terry Baum: [00:11:30] but I knew from being in a very large high school, that I wanted to go to a small college. And of course I wanted to go to Stanford, because that's where my father wanted me to go, but I didn't get in. Thank goodness. Other than that I wanted to go to a small college, and I went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The reason I chose it was because my father thought it was more down-to-earth
Terry Baum: [00:12:00] than Reed College because it had a work program. You alternated quarters of working on campus and going somewhere in the United States and working a job. Three months study, three months somewhere working, come back. So Antioch, it took five years to graduate from Antioch. I think it was very good for me, and one of the great things was
Terry Baum: [00:12:30] I saw, even though I thought I was going to be a social worker, that I really didn't fit in with the other social workers. I didn't fit in anywhere except finally, I had a job as an apprentice at the Studio Arena Theater, and finally I fit in. I already loved theater, loved doing theater, but I understood that it was extremely unrealistic unpractical thing to do,
Terry Baum: [00:13:00] but then it just appeared that I really didn't fit anywhere else. I graduated in 1969, and I went to New York to be in an MFA program in directing in Columbia. I didn't like it so much. I have to say it just wasn't up to snuff compared to Antioch. That graduate program actually expired,
Terry Baum: [00:13:30] and now they have another one that is very, very successful. So I quit and I did theater in New York for three years, directing. I became a director. I became a director because basically I never got cast as an actor, so it seemed like, all right, let's try something else. How about instead of waiting for people to choose me, I have the power and I choose people.
Terry Baum: [00:14:00] I was in New York doing theater, and I became a feminist at that time. That was what was happening for the first time. It was very exciting. I was the first feminist on my block, so everybody would bring their boyfriends to me. I was still straight, but everybody wanted me to talk to their boyfriends about feminism.
Terry Baum: [00:14:30] I remember that I really enjoyed doing that. Once I became a feminist, there wasn't anything I wanted to direct, because I was very familiar with the dramatic canon. This was like 1969, 1970. All of the feminist plays that have been written since then didn't exist yet. So that's when I started writing, or working with other people to create new work.
Terry Baum: [00:15:00] Then I went to graduate school at UC Santa Barbara, with an emphasis in directing. And I went there because I wanted to start a community theater, and that's how I chose UC Santa Barbara. And I decided it would be a good place for a community theater and that's what I did. So I was getting my degree, but my main focus was working in this community theater that I started. And we started writing our own stuff.
Mason Funk: [00:15:30] Now, was that a specifically ... was it feminist in its orientation?
Terry Baum: It was not feminist-
Mason Funk: Can you say, "The theater-"
Terry Baum: We had a feminist theater within it. We had an Isla Vista feminist theater.
Mason Funk: Okay. Back up a little bit and say, just so we have like a clean thought, "I started this theater company and within it ..." [inaudible].
Terry Baum: [00:16:00] Yeah. Right. I started the Isla Vista Community Theater, and within the Isla Vista Community Theater we had a feminist theater. Now, this feminist theater had men in it. We had no concept of just women. And the men were committed to doing feminist things, and we wrote our own material based on our experiences. One of the first scenes that I wrote, it was inspired by a Jules Feiffer cartoon,
Terry Baum: [00:16:30] which was like my experience, which was a man saying ... the man and woman are sitting facing each other. They're having a conversation. And the man is saying, "Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me," goes on panel after panel, "Me, me, me," and finally the woman says very timidly, "I," and the man yawns with boredom.
Terry Baum: [00:17:00] So I wrote a scene, I think that was the first scene I ever wrote, that started with that cartoon, and then the woman talking to the man about the fact that he never listened to her, and she always listened to him.
Mason Funk: That's really, really cool.
Mason Funk: I love that. I love that. What did it mean, just for my ... What did it mean to start a community theater? What was a community theater, when you say, "I started a community theater, Isla Vista?"
Terry Baum: [00:17:30] Well, Isla Vista was not a regular town. It was a college town. UC Santa Barbara is in Isla Vista, it's not in Santa Barbara. Isla Vista is on the beach. So almost everything in the town was about the university, or people who'd been in the university and never moved away, or surfers.
Terry Baum: [00:18:00] I didn't even know what a community theater was, but I put an ad in the school paper, which was the only paper in Isla Vista, saying that everybody who was interested in starting a community theater, come to this one place for a meeting.
Mason Funk: Okay. So it was basically a theater company based in the town [crosstalk] university.
Terry Baum: [00:18:30] Yes. That's right.
Mason Funk: Okay. Yeah. That was pretty simple. I just had [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: Okay. And what did it mean that it was ... that you had this ... like, when you say you had a feminist kind of group or theater within the community theater, just enlighten me as to what it meant to be a feminist theater.
Terry Baum: Well, it was not really deep because we had men in it. So there was no real sisterhood,
Terry Baum: [00:19:00] because the men were included. So it was really very different from when I started Lilith Theater, which was all women. There was an opportunity to go much deeper. There was greater safety. So I would say we kind of stayed on the surface, really. But we did things about these issues,
Terry Baum: [00:19:30] and we performed them for the community, and I think we also performed for the schools, like junior high and high schools. So it was something, but it was not the real thing.
Mason Funk: Now, at this point, in terms of your own sexual development and your awareness of who you were interested and who you weren't interested sexually and all that, where were you at? And set up the time, like, "When I was-"
Terry Baum: [00:20:00] I had had a boyfriend. Let's see. In college, I'd had a boyfriend that I lived with for off and ... when we were in the same place, off and on for three years. And then I had another boyfriend that I lived with for a year and a half, and then when I was at ...
Terry Baum: [00:20:30] I had slept with a lot ... everybody slept with a lot of people. That's how it was. My entering into college was the beginning of birth control pills, so it was sort of everybody was ... and I was at Antioch College, so it was just very normal to have sex. And I would say I had fantasies about women.
Terry Baum: [00:21:00] I was always close to women, but I never ever had any real thought. I remember my best friend, when I started Antioch College, they put you together with somebody you don't know for your roommate. And it turned out ... we're still very close. We just really hit it off and of course the great problem in our life was boys
Terry Baum: [00:21:30] and how uncooperative they were, because basically the boys just wanted to have sex and were willing to hold out the prospect of relationship to get sex, and the girls wanted to have a relationship, and we're willing to hold out the prospect of sex, so wasn't a very good relationship between men and women at Antioch. So Annie and I used to sit on the edge of the bed and say, " Wouldn't it be great if I, Terry, was a boy?"
Terry Baum: [00:22:00] Now, why it never occurred to us the possibility that Annie could be a boy and I could be the girl? Never did. But yeah, we'd talk about it would be so wonderful, and all our problems, our lives would be so happy. And in fact, years later, because I didn't come out until I was 30, years later when I told Annie that I was a lesbian, she said it made her jealous, and she remembered those conversations
Terry Baum: [00:22:30] that we used to have. So we both had some kind of openness to it, but it was just totally hidden at that point, really. What a shame, because it was so much more fun to be a lesbian than a straight woman. I wish I'd done it sooner.
Mason Funk: I love that story. But why did it make her jealous that you were a lesbian?
Terry Baum: Yeah, that I was a lesbian and was with another woman. And then when she ... this great. Then she was married-
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] Can you rephrase by saying, "My college roommate ..."
Terry Baum: Yeah. My college roommate, she got married in college and then they got divorced, and then she got married again, and they got divorced. And then when she was in her later 60s, or maybe middle 60s, she got married again. And she was living in Gettysburg, which is where she and her husband still are. I went to this wedding,
Terry Baum: [00:23:30] and got there a couple days early to help prepare or whatever. And I had this dream the night before the wedding, which was that I was at the wedding and the minister was saying to Annie, "Do you accept this man as your husband?" and blah blah blah, and then he said to the groom, "And do you accept this woman?"
Terry Baum: [00:24:00] And the groom said, "Well, I guess she's all right. I don't think I can do any better really, so I'd better settle for her." I stood up in the audience and said, "You do not love this woman and she deserves to be loved. I love her. And she will come away with me, and we will spend the rest ..." It was like right out of the movie The Graduate. Really. It was very inspired by The Graduate this dream.
Terry Baum: [00:24:30] And I went and I swept Annie up in my arms and we walked majestically out of the church. I mean, we're both in our 60s when I had this dream. So when I woke up, I realized, hm, perhaps I have ambivalent feelings about Annie getting married.
Mason Funk: You think? Oh dear. Did she finally stay married to that guy?
Terry Baum: [00:25:00] She still is married to him.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Mason Funk: Well, third time's a charm I guess. That's so funny and a little bit sad that she never decided to just take that [crosstalk].
Terry Baum: Well ...
Mason Funk: Of course she did, she must have.
Terry Baum: What?
Mason Funk: Had a little bit of a lesbian relationship just to see how it is.
Terry Baum: Well, okay. I don't know if this is okay. If you remove her name nobody will know anyhow.
Terry Baum: My close friend had a very, very traumatic childhood,
Terry Baum: [00:25:30] with a lot of sexual abuse. And her father was an embezzler and deserted the family, and her mother was an alcoholic. And she had a very intense need to live within the borders of conventional life, because that's what she said to me later.
Terry Baum: [00:26:00] She said, "Yes, I can easily imagine having a great sexual relationship with a woman, but I cannot imagine violating the rules of society and living. That would make me too uncomfortable." And that made sense to me.
Mason Funk: Totally.
Mason Funk: Totally. In that context it makes sense.
Terry Baum: Yeah. It really does. I mean, really. I mean,
Terry Baum: [00:26:30] I was totally within the box the way I grew up. But somebody who has all these feelings of worrying about ... they're living the supposedly middle-class life but they don't have any food, and her father left, and it was just really ... it was very difficult, very difficult. So that's why she's not a lesbian.
Mason Funk: [00:27:00] Yeah. I'm glad she found someone that-
Terry Baum: Yes. She found someone who really appreciates her, yes. Like I said, when I woke up from the dream I said, okay, so I was me in the dream and Annie was Annie, but the groom wasn't Danny because Danny really does love Annie very much.
Mason Funk: Okay. So fast forwarding to your now mid 20s, you started the theater company, but then you moved to San Francisco.
Terry Baum: [00:27:30] Yeah. And this was the period of my celibacy.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, start with something like, "So, in my mid 20s ..."
Terry Baum: I guess in my mid 20s, or ... Yeah. In my mid 20s, I stopped falling in love with men. My impression was that men were not interested in me because I was a feminist and so outspoken,
Terry Baum: [00:28:00] but in fact something mutual was going on between me and men. We were drifting apart. Whereas previously, it seemed to me that if I slept with somebody I wanted to fall in love with them, now it became something that I could always keep my emotional distance. I just didn't care that much about men.
Terry Baum: [00:28:30] That's what was really happening, was I was losing interest. I'm really an intimacy junkie, and one of the reasons that I'm a lesbian is that I've been able to be much more intimate with women than I ever was with men. There was really a long time of me being ...
Terry Baum: [00:29:00] well, certainly not having sex very much, especially because in Isla Vista that was a time, at the party and then the party went on, and then people would take off their clothes, and there'll be kind of an orgy. And the whole thing was, there was kind of a tradition that the orgy didn't start until after I left, probably because everybody had cats and I was allergic to cats so I could never stay that late.
Terry Baum: [00:29:30] But also I wasn't doing it, it just didn't grab me. And then, if it did grab me and I got involved with somebody, and he said, "Oh well, I have to leave ..." Like this one guy, we got together right before we were graduating. He was all upset that we were graduating, going different places. I wasn't. Then I moved to Santa Cruz to help start a theater there
Terry Baum: [00:30:00] with friends from Antioch who'd been in the theater program in Antioch. And I was the only woman in the group. And they were very, very nice men, but still it was horrible being the only woman. And they really just thought I was a pain in the ass, and I felt like, "What I am saying to you is a woman's viewpoint, and you should give me some credit for that and listen to me
Terry Baum: [00:30:30] rather than just saying I'm always the one that always disagrees with everybody." But during that time, I remember these three men came to stay at our house. They were going to be doing a play with us, or they were going to be on the same bill as us doing their own things. And these guys were sleeping in the living room. This one guy and I started having an affair, so he moves into my bedroom.
Terry Baum: [00:31:00] And he was a poet, and he wrote this beautiful love poem on the back of my food stamp application. And I just filled out the food stamp application and turned it in. And he said, "You just ... I have written this poem." He said, "You just turned in my poem with the food stamp application?" "Yeah, I need the food stamps." I think that was pre-lesbian behavior frankly.
Terry Baum: [00:31:30] Then I got tired of him and he went back to the living room. That was kind of how it was. And there was a couple times in there where I had some kind of intense contact with a woman at a dance. And Carolyn, who is my crony, my collaborator, and we've been doing theater together since 2008,
Terry Baum: [00:32:00] but back in 1972, she's one of those people came to the first meeting of the Isla Vista community theater. And working on this feminist theater, she and I did an improvisation, where we were two roommates talking about ... she was talking about she was attracted to me. People still talk about that improvisation. Everybody remembers that improvisation.
Mason Funk: [00:32:30] Wait. Why does everyone remember that improvisation?
Terry Baum: Because it was so fraught with actual real tension between us, because we do have this incredible connection, and Carolyn has had lesbian relationships. She had lesbian relationships before me. So it was a real thing happening in front of people.
Terry Baum: [00:33:00] It wasn't just an improvisation. But funnily enough, we never did it as part of the feminist theater. It was like, "We're not going to go there again."
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for a second. Sorry. I wanted to do one thing to keep ... I just want to check the frame real quick, just to see if the lighting is [inaudible]. And if you could just look as if I were sitting in that chair still. Okay.
Keith Wilson: What is that number?
Mason Funk: [00:33:30] Well, I just wonder if there was enough contrast between the key and the [inaudible]. I just was looking at that. And then if you don't mind pausing for a second. I just need a glass of water.
Terry Baum: Okay. So after two years-
Mason Funk: Just hold one second. Lets make sure we're all settled.
Terry Baum: All right.
Mason Funk: I am good. Okay.
Terry Baum: So it took me two years to get my master's, and then I moved to Santa Cruz to start
Terry Baum: [00:34:00] the Bear Republic Theater with these friends from Antioch College, the theater department. And it was all men. I was the only woman, and it was horrible because I was the only woman. They were doing a play that I felt was very sexist, and the director, who was not one my friends, I felt was sexist.
Terry Baum: [00:34:30] Then my friends came up from Isla Vista. My women friends, they came up for the very first women's music festival, the first one that ever happened, in the Redwoods, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So we all went to this amazing festival. It wasn't huge. I think there was like 200 people there. The music was incredible,
Terry Baum: [00:35:00] absolutely amazing. And we're in this sort of clubhouse, camping out, and then there's a clubhouse, a stage outside and all that. And we're all naked, all the time mostly, and we dropped acid. And then, it turned out, this place where we were having this festival was a motorcycle club. So at some point,
Terry Baum: [00:35:30] all of these guys on big Harleys some to ... they didn't know that there was a women's music festival there, so they just been rented out to all these dykes. Of course, I wasn't a dyke then. None of us were dykes. I don't think. At least we weren't out, in my group. So they come up on their motorcycles and they want to come in, they want to disrupt the whole thing. And I was tripping on acid, and I felt that we should kill them.
Terry Baum: [00:36:00] I didn't say anything. I didn't say it. Or I said it, but definitely I was not in charge and that was not going to happen. But I had this amazing desire to kill them. From that experience, I had a desire to write a play about the rage women feel against men. And I knew I was going to start a women's theater.
Terry Baum: [00:36:30] From this experience of just working with men, only men, and then having this experience while I was tripping at this women's music festival, I knew I was going to start a women's theater. So I left Santa Cruz and I moved to Berkeley, and I started Lilith Feminist Theater, or Lilith, A Women's Theater Collective. We had different versions of our name.
Terry Baum: [00:37:00] Lilith was Adam's first wife, and she was made equally with him from dust. So when he demanded that she lie beneath him, she said, "Why should I? We're equal." Then in a rage she left Eden, and then she becomes a demon. She is the major evil demon in Jewish folk mythology,
Terry Baum: [00:37:30] but to me she was a symbol. As a Jew, I felt she was my link to this primordial female strength and rage.
Mason Funk: Is Lilith only in the ... because I grew up going to Sunday school and hearing about Adam and Eve. Is she only in the Jewish-
Terry Baum: [00:38:00] No, no. She's been cut out. But you can see because you look and you see where she's cut out, because it says, "Male and female were created he them from dust," and then all of a sudden Adam's alone. So you see evidence of the creation of the first woman, which was Lilith, but she was cut out, and she's in the Babylonian tales. I don't really remember the exact thing. But the evidence of her is there, in King James version of the Bible. You can go and read that.
Terry Baum: [00:38:30] "Male and female created he them from dust." And then all of the sudden he's alone again.
Mason Funk: Then the next version is he took a rib from-
Terry Baum: Yeah, because that was to make sure that she was subservient. So let's make this woman from part of Adam's body. Then we won't have this problem. So I started Lilith. I still was not a lesbian. I was still in my,
Terry Baum: [00:39:00] "Celibate" phase. And for the very first show, we had all the scenes based on our personal experiences, and we all had a personal monologue. And mine was, I'm Becoming the Man I Wanted to Marry." It was all about that I wasn't sleeping with men anymore, just wasn't happening, but yet I was coming into my own, and I was realizing that I could ...
Terry Baum: [00:39:30] all the things that I looked for in a man, I could be myself. In fact, was myself those things. So I was in a certain way releasing myself. And as I said, there was all kinds of obvious traces that I was going towards lesbianism, but just wasn't willing to acknowledge it. It's really clear in that monologue,
Terry Baum: [00:40:00] because I make up these lies, really I didn't know I was lying. In my monologue I say, "Well, maybe I should just be a lesbian and then I'll have sex, but after a lot of talk with my friends, I've realized that I'm not a lesbian. I'm bisexual, a bisexual celibate." Well, I never talked with my friend about that, never,
Terry Baum: [00:40:30] because my friends would've never said ... because when I did come out, everybody said, "Well, we were wondering how long it would take you to figure it out." That's what people's response was. Finally, when I told my ex-boyfriend, he said, "I'm shocked." I said, "Thank goodness somebody's shocked at last."
Mason Funk: Looking back, do you have any sense of why it was important to you to take that long? I'm just curious if-
Terry Baum: [00:41:00] No. That's a good question, why did it take me so long? Well, as I said, my sexual urges came late, like, not in high school. I had really no sexual feeling.
Terry Baum: [00:41:30] It didn't exist as a possibility really, and the images that I had ... like, I remember my first boyfriend had this ... it made a huge impression on me ... this pornographic book that I read, and it was this woman who would do anything. She became more,
Terry Baum: [00:42:00] and more, and more depraved sexually, and was going down, and down, and down, and then finally, finally, she became a lesbian. I mean, that was the bottom. And I took that at face value, really. I had no question that that was the bottom. It was the bottom. Everybody knew that.
Terry Baum: [00:42:30] If you even knew of the existence of lesbians. So it was such a terrible thing to be. I accepted that. And I was a good girl, I was such a good girl. I was always a good girl. I just became less and less of a good girl as time went on, and certainly I thought of myself as a good girl all the time I was having sex with men,
Terry Baum: [00:43:00] and going on whatever demonstrations, long after my mother thought of me as a good girl. So, I don't know. The truth is, I blame the lesbians, because nobody tried to seduce me, so I blame all the lesbians who didn't seduce me. Because I was there, I was available, I was celibate,
Terry Baum: [00:43:30] I had no feeling for men anymore. Sleep with them, not sleep with them, whatever, bye, bye. But nobody's tried to seduce me. So the truth was, I had to start a feminist theater, and had to run it, be in it for two years before finally there were lesbians in it. And then, one of them, tried to seduce me. Try, I mean, definitely, I was there, immediately.
Mason Funk: [00:44:00] Finally.
Terry Baum: Yeah. It was very interesting because it started ... My understanding that it was there. We were doing improvisations again, and this was at a date ... this was that we were working on play on women and work, moonlighting. It was a wonderful play.
Terry Baum: [00:44:30] I mean, this was at a time, was '76 or something, where the idea of women in work was like, "Wow. Women, they work." I mean, they're women, we're already working, but it was not anything that was ever talked about, so it was sort of a radical thing to this show on women and work. We were doing this one thing, it was about a scene in a daycare center. It was mostly based on our personal experiences.
Terry Baum: [00:45:00] This woman had to hit a child. She got so frustrated. That's what the scene was about. So several of us were just being kids in the daycare center, just kind of background people. Sherry and I, we started wrestling, and we just never stopped wrestling. And it was this incredibly erotic thing to me.
Terry Baum: [00:45:30] We were babies wrestling, but that essentially was my coming out. That was the end of being a straight woman. And then, when we had a photo session. People said, "Terry and Sherry, do your baby act again." So I'd say, "Okay."
Terry Baum: [00:46:00] So we actually have a photograph. We have all these photos of us wrestling before we ever had sex.
Mason Funk: To this day?
Terry Baum: Yeah, yeah. I have a photo somewhere of us wrestling. We just got into it and they're snapping away. So that was really it. She was a lesbian. She in fact was somebody who always fell in love with straight women,
Terry Baum: [00:46:30] so I pretty much ... She had a track record that women would go, decide they weren't lesbians. I think I might be the only one who she converted. That was just it. Then we were going to a conference. It was women and violence.
Mason Funk: Was this the '76 conference?
Terry Baum: [00:47:00] In San Francisco.
Terry Baum: Yeah, okay. And she and I were going-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Just, for historical purposes, "In 1976 ..."
Terry Baum: In 1976 there was a conference on women and violence. It was a very big deal in San Francisco. And Sherry and I were the only people from the theater who were going. And I felt very strongly that something was going to happen that night.
Terry Baum: [00:47:30] This woman who gave the keynote speech, Margaret Sloan Hunter I think, she went on this rampage about heterosexual women and how they should be labeled like cigarette packs. She obviously had had a bad experience with a heterosexual woman, and it was very inappropriate for the keynote in a conference of women and violence. And I remember thinking, " I think this is my last day as a heterosexual woman,
Terry Baum: [00:48:00] so this is my last day to stand up for heterosexual women," so I stood up and challenged everything she said about heterosexual women. But I had this understanding that it was coming to an end that night. Of course the conference was downtown, and Sherry took me to the Top of the Mark, which is a good place to take somebody when you want to seduce them.
Terry Baum: [00:48:30] And she said, "How does it make you feel that I'm a lesbian?" Now, turned out, even though she was somebody who had known she was a lesbian since she was, as she said, two years old, she had never said the words, "I'm a lesbian," before. That's what she told me later. And I said, "It makes me want to sleep with you." But I was 30. It was a week after my 30th birthday.
Terry Baum: [00:49:00] That was really it for me. It was just very clear, even though the very first night we didn't actually really have sex because I was very freaked out on some level. I did not want her to touch my genitals, I just wanted her to hold me, because it was a big deal to me.
Terry Baum: [00:49:30] And in fact, I got very depressed for the first time in my life, because I knew I was leaving the safe structure of belonging, and I was really scared to do it. I don't know, scared? But I was depressed. At the same time I was in love and everything was wonderful, I also had this depression
Terry Baum: [00:50:00] because I was leaving the straight world and all the safety and the freedom to walk down the street hand in hand, with your arms around your lover and things like that. I just found it very difficult that that was over for me, but it was very clear immediately. I'm a lesbian, that's that.
Mason Funk: Wow. The whole thing is a great story. It's very vivid. Did you ever write that, that scene, the scene of you and her at the Top of the Mark?
Terry Baum: No. I don't think I ever did. Yeah. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Or anything of you, of the period of depression that followed? You never turned that into-
Terry Baum: Not really. I wasn't at that point. No. I mean, I was working really hard with Lilith, and
Terry Baum: [00:51:00] we were still sort of ... like in this play on women and work, we didn't have anything about lesbians in it. We really didn't.
Mason Funk: So did that feel like ... you're in the women's movement, you're clearly identified as a feminist before the women's theater company, but to actually start doing lesbian content and lesbian material, did that feel like a whole other [crosstalk].
Terry Baum: [00:51:30] Yeah, yes. And we weren't all lesbians. So let me tell you, at that time, when you start talking about doing a scene with lesbians in it, the heterosexual women don't want it. They are not interested, even if they're not in the scene, they don't want the group going there. And since we had a collective and everybody had veto power, we couldn't do it. The next play we wrote, Sacrifices,
Terry Baum: [00:52:00] did have explicit lesbians in it, but it was a battle, and believe me, there was no physical nothing going on at all, because the straight women didn't want it at all. They didn't want anybody to be identified as a lesbian. So then, after that, because after that we went to Europe,
Terry Baum: [00:52:30] we toured Europe with the play on women and work, and also a play Manifesto that did have ... did that have lesbian relationship in it? Maybe not, but we had ... that had a lesbian feeling because it was all women and sometimes they were playing a sexual romantic scene with another women.
Terry Baum: [00:53:00] And I remember there was ... this is a terrible story. We were rehearsing at Bethany Church, and I knew that ... Marga Gomez was the lead. She was very young and she really wasn't ... You might not even know Marga Gomez. She's very well-known in the Bay Area. She's an incredible stand-up comedian, and she's had solo shows.
Terry Baum: [00:53:30] She's really incredible. But this was really to ... and she's very beautiful too. Anyhow. This play, Manifesto, I cast her in the main part. And the truth was, it was a bit much for her. It was too much. She wasn't ready for it. She was like 21, or 22. And it was all about this Italian woman. And Michelle, who was Italian, she felt that she should've had the part.
Terry Baum: [00:54:00] And always, whenever I go to play and I see a beautiful woman cast in a part that she can't do I think, "Yeah, the director had the hots for her." And essentially that's what happened with me and Marga. I just had this huge crush on her so I have her the main part. So I was very embarrassed that I did, when I look back, that I did this thing. Anyhow, I knew that Marga and Michelle were attracted to each other.
Terry Baum: [00:54:30] So we had this whole rehearsal, and Marga wasn't out lesbian, but Michelle and I. And Michelle had one of these characters of the ... I think she was the young man who first ... the main character's a prostitute. A very young prostitute. And this young man is her first customer, and they actually have great sex and fall in love.
Terry Baum: [00:55:00] Anyhow. I was rehearsing with the two of them in the chapel of the church, and I knew that they were possibly on the verge of getting involved with each other, so I had them caressing, "No, no, no, you have to do it again. Go slower. No. Even slower." I was totally sadistic having them ...
Terry Baum: [00:55:30] and then they slept together that night, after that rehearsal. Then, Lilith-
Mason Funk: Hold on for a second. Sorry if I interrupt but I just do because I want to pick up on which was ... it's a little bit theoretical, but it strikes me that the battle going on within your collective kind of mirrored the women's movement at large. I know that's my idea, you didn't come up with it, but it sounds like it makes sense to you-
Terry Baum: [00:56:00] It definitely makes sense. I forgot to tell you, this would happen when I was still in New York, and it also was one of the reasons why I had such bad, weird feelings about lesbians. The very famous conference, women's conference in New York that was disrupted by Rita Mae Brown, and this whole lesbian cohort ... I don't know what this women's conference was about, was supposed to be about, but it was immediately disrupted
Terry Baum: [00:56:30] by these dykes who were demanding to be acknowledged as important part of the women's movement. And it was really incredible and shocking, and the whole agenda was thrown out and it was just all people getting together and talking about this issue. So I was in this group and people were talking about this issue. I said, "I don't want to be a lesbian.
Terry Baum: [00:57:00] I can't imagine being a lesbian because I'm afraid of what my mother would think of me." And this woman came up to me afterwards, she was a lesbian. She came up to me afterwards and she said, "You're not worried about what your mother will think of you. You're worried about what you will think of yourself." And she was like this butch motorcycle dyke. She was a member of the Jewish Defense League.
Terry Baum: [00:57:30] You remember? Okay. I mean, these people were like right wing macho Jews. And this was a motorcycle dyke who was a right wing macho Jew. This has to be the first out lesbian that I meet, is a complete weirdo. And then she took me, I thought she was going to seduce me, even though she was a complete weirdo and very, "Arghhh," I was ready.
Terry Baum: [00:58:00] We rode around on her motorcycle. I think we went out to dinner and she dropped me off. She was not interested in me. And then I went to the dance, the women's dance that night. I was terrified. This young woman, much younger, much smaller than me, comes, asked me to dance, and we're like ... it was a slow dance, and we're just dancing, completely terrified.
Terry Baum: [00:58:30] We're both terrified. There is no physical feeling between us at all. We're dancing slow dancing as far apart from each other as we can. And then I left. Then I get involved in a consciousness raising group, and there was one lesbian in the group. And again, she turns out to be a total weirdo. She wore turbans. I mean, she dressed in very femmy clothes.
Terry Baum: [00:59:00] She was like a person from the '50s or something like that. And bright red lipstick, and she wore a turban. But, this is another reason probably why I didn't want to be a lesbian. For one thing, she was weird. She's absolutely the weirdest person in the group. Strange. So then she's gone for a few months. She comes back, what happened? Well, what happened? I'm telling you, this is in New York City.
Terry Baum: [00:59:30] A man, her neighbor, attacked her on the stairs of her apartment building, and she threw him down the stairs. So he went to report to the police that she had attacked him. I mean, he was trying to rape her.
Terry Baum: [01:00:00] She threw him down the stairs. Then they called her in and she says, "He was attacking me. That's why I threw him down the stairs." And then he says, "No. I couldn't have been attacking her because she's a lesbian." And she went to trial and she went to prison for three months because
Terry Baum: [01:00:30] a lesbian does not have the same rights to self-defense as ... you know, he said, "She threw me down the stairs because she's a lesbian and she hates men. It is impossible that I tried to rape her because she's a lesbian. And obviously she hates all men, and that's why she threw me down the stairs." So she went to prison. That's why she was gone from the consciousness raising group for three months. So let me tell you, that made me much less interested in being a lesbian too. She went to prison because she was a lesbian.
Mason Funk: All these stories are great. As you know, you're a great storyteller. In case no one's ever told you.
Mason Funk: Let me check the time real quick. Okay. We're doing good. So by the time you've ... It's kind of, you've come out, you're about 30, you're into your 30s,
Mason Funk: [01:01:30] you've come out, you're running Lilith. One of the reasons ... what this period was like. How did you maybe moving into your 30s now, as you're running this theater, as you were getting more comfortable as a lesbian, were you part of ... or how did you relate to the women who were really ardent separatists?
Terry Baum: I was never a separatist. I always had good friends who were gay men
Terry Baum: [01:02:00] and also couple of friends who were heterosexual men. I never felt that need to be separate. I understood it and I respected it, and I certainly feel that sisterhood is a real thing, and it's great, very powerful,
Terry Baum: [01:02:30] and it was there when I started a women's theater. That power was there. Our performances were opened to men.
Terry Baum: [01:03:00] It was something that I had a lot of empathy with I would say, but it wasn't something that I felt within myself at all ever, really.
Mason Funk: Okay. Yeah. I just wanted to ... and still, I'm still just very curious-
Terry Baum: My gosh. You know, I have a Lesbian Ethics. There was a journal, Lesbian Ethics.
Terry Baum: [01:03:30] I have a lot of copies of it. If you were interested ... I just picked it up recently, started reading this one and they were very much separatists. So there's a lot of material about separatism. But this one journal was also about ... I never knew about this. When women,
Terry Baum: [01:04:00] usually with their lover would ... I think they called it disappearing, that they would just ... it was kind of a sacred weird thing to do. I never knew about it until I read about it in Lesbian Ethics. They would just leave. They would be part of a community, they would just leave without telling anybody, and move 2,000 miles away and be in a new community. And this was somehow, some rite of passage,
Terry Baum: [01:04:30] to just break without any notice. I mean, it was very, very painful. I felt so much pain in these women, in what they were doing, and I was very shocked by what I read in that. It was disturbing. I didn't know anything about it until just recently, a couple months ago I read it.
Mason Funk: And this was something more like not necessarily from the present, but this was a part of that kind of ... at that time, what some of the-
Terry Baum: Yeah, I think so. I'm not quite sure how long ago that was, but yeah. It wasn't me.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] It wasn't you. Perfect. Okay. Let me have a quick glance at the questions that I wrote. In terms of the ... because I've read as much as I could, including on the Lilith side, about the different plays you've written. And there's a lot of them. So I was kind of trying to figure out how can we talk about your body of work without necessarily going play by play.
Mason Funk: [01:05:30] So one way that occurred to me was, to ask you, as you look back at some of the plays that you created, and toured, and the lives of these plays, what are few of them that really stand out for you for one reason or another?
Terry Baum: Well, of course, Dos Lesbos was the leap into writing about being a lesbian,
Terry Baum: [01:06:00] what it means, what the relationship's like, what you face in the world. And that was written based on ... there was a group of us. I did almost all the writing, Carolyn Meyers who is my longtime collaborator was the other writer. Very much I was writing a lot of what when on between me and Alice Thompson,
Terry Baum: [01:06:30] who was my lover at the time, who just was an incredibly brilliant, creative person, but she didn't write any of it, but she lived a lot of it. So that was incredibly exciting because we were holding up a mirror to the community that it had not seen before, because the images of lesbians were of evil vampires really,
Terry Baum: [01:07:00] or poor, pathetic women who committed suicide. There wasn't anything out there that we could really relate to. So it was so incredibly exciting to be representing a community to itself. And we would meet people on the streets and they would say ... like, people would get really angry at us,
Terry Baum: [01:07:30] "Why didn't you do a scene about such and such?" And I always took it as a compliment, their anger, that they felt that we were so much representing them that we should really represent this particular thing that they experienced.
Mason Funk: Do you remember, just off the top of your head, an example or two of a thing that a person said-
Terry Baum: Yeah. I'm trying to remember now what they said. There was nothing about children in it at all.
Terry Baum: [01:08:00] None of us had children at that point, and we weren't interested in ... so that was one thing.
Terry Baum: Yeah. Yeah.
Mason Funk: But it was really, really just incredibly ... it was ground-breaking.
Terry Baum: It was. And when Kate McDermott, who lived in Santa Cruz, saw a production in Santa Cruz,
Terry Baum: [01:08:30] she thought, "Wow. There must be other lesbian plays around," and she went to all the bookstores and libraries and there weren't, and she decided to edit the first anthology of plays by lesbians. That was inspired by Dos Lesbos. And I think everybody involved with Dos Lesbos was very proud of it. Now, okay, see, not a separatist. The lyricist was a man.
Terry Baum: [01:09:00] The music director was a straight woman. Carolyn is a straight woman. So, in fact, Alice and I were the lesbians. But I know, that was okay. It was okay. Like, I recently submitted something to this anthology dispatches from Lesbian America just got published, and when I submitted it I included the lyricist to this song,
Terry Baum: [01:09:30] and they said, "No. We only are having women in this anthology," so I just sort of redo the scene and leave out the song, because the lyrics were by David who is my lyricist, has been my lyricist since Dos Lesbos. And we were all in Isla Vista together doing theater. So it's continued since 1972.
Terry Baum: [01:10:00] It was a very wonderful feeling, and it was also a wonderful feeling when Lilith ... when we toured Europe and toured the Northwest in 1977, toured Europe in 1979, in terms of feminism. We were the first ones that people were seeing. It was very, very special. And I have to say Carolyn and I, again,
Terry Baum: [01:10:30] had that wonderful feeling when we toured Mexico last year with the Crackpot Crones, which is very feminist and lesbian, and we had one performance at this mind blowing women's center in Mexico City. These gorgeous young dykes there, and all of them afterwards, they would say, "Please, we need more. We need you down here. We need you." Oh, what a wonderful thing to feel needed, needed as an artist. Thats something.
Mason Funk: [01:11:00] That's amazing.
Terry Baum: That's something. Then, my play, Immediate Family. Well, I would say Immediate Family kind of got around to the lesbian part indirectly. Was I still with Alice? I was still with Alice, yes. And my dog, I had to have my dog euthanized.
Terry Baum: [01:11:30] She had cancer. Then at the same time, there were these stories in the paper about this nurse who was killing patients in a nursing home. She was called Death's Angel. And I thought, well, I was able to do this thing which seemed very compassionate and humane for my animal companion, and I couldn't do it for Alice, and Alice couldn't do it for me.
Terry Baum: [01:12:00] So I thought, okay, I'm going to write a play about this nurse who does it, that she has compassion. That's why she does it in the nursing home. That's how I started out. It was called Death's Angel. And then of course, if you're doing a play, an action is being taken as most powerful if it's the first time, it's happening in this play,
Terry Baum: [01:12:30] rather than it's something repeated from the past. So I thought, okay, so this nurse is taking this person off a ventilator. She never done it before. Why? Why is she doing it this time? It's because this person is a lesbian, and their lesbian partner has no right over her medical decision.
Terry Baum: [01:13:00] That's why she's doing it. And then I thought, get the nurse out of the way and just have the two women there, the two lesbians there. So this is this play, Immediate Family. I changed the name from Death's Angel to Immediate Family. And it opened at the first women's theater festival, national theater festival in Santa Cruz in 1983.
Terry Baum: [01:13:30] That was when I did it. And that was published in the anthology of lesbian plays, and that has been translated into different languages, and performed all over the world, and for many, many times for a political reason. And it was produced in Boise, Idaho and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Terry Baum: [01:14:00] when there were anti-gay initiatives on the ballot, and it was a way to raise money, and also to raise consciousness about these issues. So I'm very, very proud of that, that my play was used in actual political campaigns. That's important to me.
Mason Funk: [01:14:30] Let me look, because I jotted down some others, probably just based on They seemed like really interesting milestones. We definitely have to talk about Hick.
Mason Funk: But I also love I'm Getting My Shit Together.
Terry Baum: Ego Trip, or I'm Getting My Shit Together and Dumping It All on You.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Is that the title, or?
Terry Baum: Yeah. Well, there was a famous play, I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, so this was a takeoff of that.
Terry Baum: [01:15:00] And it was like the end of the world that I was using the word, "Shit" in the title, let me tell you. The Chronicle wouldn't publish it. It was funny looking back on it. This was my first solo play and it was kind of an economic choice. How can I make money?
Mason Funk: Let's start with the title so that we can work out-
Terry Baum: [01:15:30] Okay. Ego Trip. That was my first solo play. It was before Immediate Family . It was called Ego Trip , or I'm Getting My Shit Together and Dumping It All on You. And it was a conglomeration of a lot of different scenes about my life, or characters that I met, but definitely one of the scenes was a lot about these coming out
Terry Baum: [01:16:00] or encounters with lesbians before I came out. There's a scene about that, so there's a scene about me coming out, and it has the whole thing about going to that conference in the Lavender Menace. That's what they were called, the Lavender Menace. Yeah, the Lavender Menace taking over and all that. And there was also a scene about women's rage.
Terry Baum: [01:16:30] It was called The 5,000 Year Old Virgin. That in some ways was a take off on Rob Reiner's and Mel Brooks 2000 Year Old Man. So the 5,000 Year Old Virgin is looking for her sister who has gotten ... her sister. The 5,000 Year Old Virgin has been trying to protect her sister from all these men, for 5,000 years.
Terry Baum: [01:17:00] She talks about when the men discovered that women gave birth. It's kind of a very really angry sort of mythological take on history. It's a very harsh, angry piece. That was my very first solo show.
Mason Funk: And when you wrote these, imagine that piece for example,
Mason Funk: [01:17:30] the 5,000 Year Old Virgin, and the anger that went into it, I'm curious as to how you would feel when you were writing scenes like that. Would they come from a place of you feeling and carrying around a lot of sort of unmetabolized anger?
Terry Baum: I think yes, I do. All women do. I'm certain of it. And I am only now finally writing the play about it.
Terry Baum: [01:18:00] Now I am writing it. It was the reason that I started Lilith in 1974, when I wanted to kill those motorcycle jerks who were trying to bust up our festival. I wanted to write that play about women's rage. I have discovered that there is so little tolerance of the exploration of women's rage even by lesbian separatists.
Terry Baum: [01:18:30] You actually see it on stage, you actually see women on stage talking about how horrible men can be. There is almost no tolerance of it from anybody. That's what we have discovered. When we did the show on women and work in Lilith, Carolyn did a scene about ... she had been a firefighter in the national forest,
Terry Baum: [01:19:00] and she did a scene about this really sort of hostile, aggressive woman-hating supervisor that shed had. And it went back-and-forth between what was going on between him and her. And then we would do her fantasies of what she wanted to do to him. Well, we made this scene of what he was doing milder than the reality.
Terry Baum: [01:19:30] People couldn't take it. I'm telling you, lesbian feminists saying, "Why do you have that stereotypical men-hating scene?" There is no leeway for women to talk about this. Nobody can handle it. Anyhow, I'm doing it now. This is finally my statement. I guess I should tell you about that, right?
Mason Funk: Yes.
Terry Baum: Okay. It's called Mikvah. Mikvah is the name of the-
Mason Funk: [01:20:00] Start by saying something like, "The play that I'm working on ..."
Terry Baum: Okay. This is the play I'm working on now, which is the play that I've been meaning to write ever since I started the women's theater in 1974. It's taken me this long to get to it, this play about women's rage. Mikvah takes place in a Jewish women's ritual bath. That's what a mikvah is, it's a Jewish ritual bath.
Terry Baum: [01:20:30] And all married women must purify themselves in the mikvah, after their period, before they can have sex with their husbands again. Every Jewish community has to have a mikvah. That's the first thing they build. They have to have that before anything else. This is about a lesbian relationship between the mikvah attendant, who is a dyke and who is kind of a golem figure.
Terry Baum: [01:21:00] Golem is sort of the precursor to Frankenstein, sort of a very awkward big person. She's the daughter of the witch, who was like the healer, but also the dicey person, who was murdered. And then they gave the 15-year-old daughter of the witch the job of mikvah attendant. And then, in comes Rachel,
Terry Baum: [01:21:30] the beautiful young woman who has been brought up by her father, who cherished her and adored her, and educated her far beyond any other women. And now she's marrying this rich man and everybody's very happy. And then, it turns out that this man is horrible. She becomes more and more attached to Hava, the mikvah attendant, and they fall in love.
Terry Baum: [01:22:00] And Rachel expresses that rage. Rachel is pissed off because she was brought up by this very loving father who encouraged her to really be herself, and now he doesn't give a shit that she is suffering in this marriage, because he gets to sit on the eastern bench in the synagogue, because he's the father-in-law of a rich man and he gets to have chicken every Shabbat at the rich man's table,
Terry Baum: [01:22:30] and he's not interested in what his daughter's going through anymore. And she's pissed off. And they have this incredible sexual relationship, and then it turns out that one of the beggars spies. The reason they're not being turned in by anybody is that in fact Hava's affairs with several of the women in the village including the wife of the rabbi who's the person who really runs the village,
Terry Baum: [01:23:00] so nothing's going to happen, be said, because the wife of the rabbi doesn't want anything to be said. But then, this beggar spies them through a knothole. This is based on a news article about a rabbi who did it in the Hasidic community in upstate New York. I didn't get this idea from my head. I got it from the New York Times. So he wants to blackmail them.
Terry Baum: [01:23:30] And what he wants is he wants to have sex with Rachel, or he's going to turn them in. And Rachel just wants to leave, but Hava won't leave because Hava has known starvation, and the mikvah is her security, so she won't leave. And then Rachel says, "Well, then we have to kill this guy." And yeah, they kill him. And then later, Rachel kills her husband. Then they leave.
Terry Baum: Yeah. It's just a very exciting ... these characters are just there. The greatest thing when you're writing, is when you feel like you're channeling something, you feel like this happened once. I know it, and I'm just telling the story now. And that's what I feel.
Mason Funk: So what do you think has brought you to the point now ... let me pause for one second. Keith, what about this sun?
Keith Wilson: [01:24:30] Yeah. It just started.
Mason Funk: Let's pause real quick. We're going to just ... Set it up, say, "This play I'm working on ..."
Terry Baum: Okay. This play I'm working on, I always knew ... well, or it seemed obvious to me as a Jew and a lesbian that a mikvah, a Jewish women's ritual bath was a sexy environment for women attracted to women.
Terry Baum: [01:25:00] I've known for a long time that I was going to write a play that took place in a mikvah, that was about a lesbian relationship between the mikvah attendant and somebody else. I'm trying to understand, since you're asking, why I feel now,
Terry Baum: [01:25:30] the courage to express this rage through a character that I have never felt the courage to do, or just I feel like I'm going to go all the way with Rachel, because Rachel's going to go all the way. You know, it's interesting because
Terry Baum: [01:26:00] I'm wondering if my Buddhist practice has something to do with it. I mean, because Buddhism is about ultimately ... well, one of the things, it's just being fully who you are. Although my teacher was very alarmed
Terry Baum: [01:26:30] that I was going to write a play with violence in it let alone murder, and she said, "Oh, no, no. I don't think so. I don't think this is a good thing," my reaction was, "Well, and your point is?" I mean, it was like, "So what if you don't think it's a good thing." If you're an artist, your path is your path and that's that.
Terry Baum: [01:27:00] And then she talked to her teacher and her teacher said, "Look. They are artists, they have to go," exactly ... you know. But I think in some way, my Buddhism has helped me be stronger, or more aware of myself. I think also the fact that I'm working with Carolyn since 2008,
Terry Baum: [01:27:30] that we are finally fulfilling the collaboration that we began in 1972, and this gives me so much strength, even though Carolyn is a much more devoted Buddhist than me and she is not going to work with me on this play because it is about violence, which I understand. She supports me doing it, but she is not going to work with me on it,
Terry Baum: [01:28:00] and that's totally okay with me. But I think perhaps Buddhism gives me strength and Carolyn. Now, our collaboration, which is certainly the most important relationship in my life, and I think we both agree it's a marriage, even though she is really married to Matthew and I understand that takes precedence over me,
Terry Baum: [01:28:30] emotionally, we also acknowledge that what we have is really a commitment that we are now fulfilling. That probably is going to go until it can't go anymore basically. It's a very deep, rich thing that we have, and very joyful,
Terry Baum: [01:29:00] even though we've had certainly ups and downs and serious conflicts. There's tremendous amount of joy and has been. I always considered the great tragedy of my life that we had not fulfilled our collaborations. This was before 2008, because she moved to Ashland, which was absolutely the right decision for her because she was raising children and it was much better than San Francisco in so many ways. And we collaborated in some ways along the way,
Terry Baum: [01:29:30] but mostly we were doing theater separately. Then, it's so interesting. You have this idea, well, we live 400 miles from each other, and therefore we cannot work together. And then, okay, this is how we started working together. This is a great story. This is the beginning of our collaboration, of the Crackpot Crones. We've taken a couple of short vacations,
Terry Baum: [01:30:00] but we've never taken a real vacation together, and finally I said, okay, we're going to take a real 10 day vacation. And she was teaching, so it was over Christmas. I was trying to figure out where we could go, and I had SheWolf's Guide to Women's Lands. And there was in Ojo Caliente,
Terry Baum: [01:30:30] which means, "Hot eye," New Mexico, Casa Feminista, which was a guest house for women, and Ojo Caliente has a hot springs spa town. Right next to Casa Feminista was this big spa with all these hot springs, so we said, "Great." Then I called up to make a reservation,
Terry Baum: [01:31:00] and this woman said, "Yes, this is Sonia Johnson." I said, "Is this THE Sonia Johnson?" So Sonia Johnson was this incredible feminist visionary, total separatist. She was a Mormon housewife and mother, so she really had it very, very heterosexually intense, and has written books, she ran for president. She's an incredible, amazing person.
Terry Baum: [01:31:30] So she was now running this guesthouse with her wife Jade. I was blown away that we were going to be meeting Sonia Johnson. I said, "Carolyn, were going to be staying with Sonia Johnson. We have to perform for them." So we put together this show that we did at Casa Feminista. The women who were staying there
Terry Baum: [01:32:00] and the women of Ojo Caliente came, and some women from Albuquerque came who were friends. And people love it so much that we just said, "We're going to do this for the rest of our lives." I mean, we had all these ideas. "We're never going to rent a theater. We're never going to do publicity ..." We were both so burnt out by producing, so for quite a while we just did it in people's houses. And then finally we said, "We're doing all this work and all we have is this tiny audience in people's houses for god's sake.
Terry Baum: [01:32:30] Let's do some publicity, rent a theater." And we just did it. Carolyn was still living in Ashland all the time, but I'd go up there, shed come down here. We just did it. So this thing that we thought we couldn't do for 30 years, once we changed our minds, we could do it. Now Carolyn still is gone a lot. She spends a lot of time in Ashland, and her daughter lives in Portland,
Terry Baum: [01:33:00] and another daughter is in Oaxaca, but she also lives upstairs, and we work together. So she is in a very ambiguous position as a straight woman doing theater, being a lesbian on stage and stuff like that, and we tried to figure out what we could do about that because,
Terry Baum: [01:33:30] well, for one thing we wanted to make it clear that she was heterosexual so people would know that she wasn't my girlfriend, so maybe I would have a chance of meeting somebody, but also she was worried that people would get angry when they found out that she wasn't a lesbian. But then if she says she's heterosexual, then people think she's ashamed to be thought a lesbian, so we just don't say anything. I think this, both Buddhism and the collaboration with Carolyn had given me the strength.
Terry Baum: Yeah. I mean, look what just happened in last year with the presidential election, and all those women. Over 50% of white women voted for him. It's mind-boggling how far we've come in terms of the liberation of some women,
Terry Baum: [01:34:30] and how little distance we've come in terms of so many women. Maybe ... I don't know. Maybe the whole thing ... I was already working on it before Trump, so I can't say that Trump is any part of the motivation, but certainly from the thing that happened
Terry Baum: [01:35:00] and the fact that he's ... you know, what he does, certainly makes it clear to all of us that we have to say our piece, that it's really important that we stand up. And certainly as a woman you feel ... our next project though is not Mikvah. We're doing a play on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. And this is Carolyn's idea,
Terry Baum: [01:35:30] because she feels that we, in some ways, reflects them in terms of our collaboration and physically in some ways, or whatever, although I have to say, from my reading about them, I'm just completely in awe of them. I don't feel like them. I feel what they did was so far beyond anything that I've attempted,
Terry Baum: [01:36:00] but still, I'm very excited about it. And in fact, they get trashed just because it's ... I think you get a lot of academic brownie points for talking about ... if women are not perfect, they're shit. That's the truth. A woman is not allowed to make a mistake. Essentially, Thomas Jefferson is allowed
Terry Baum: [01:36:30] to have slaves and rape them, and still people keep that separate. They understand that still, he is this great philosopher, and president, and blah blah blah, but no, anything that women do, that Susan B. your Elizabeth C. that falls below the standard of total enlightenment,
Terry Baum: [01:37:00] just slash and burn. So, I'm reading these books. I mean, they're putting them down. So it just makes me fell like, yeah, I want to do this play about them.
Mason Funk: You're obviously a very funny person. You love to laugh. I'm sure your plays are infused with lots of humor, and yet you have this really burning rage inside of you
Mason Funk: [01:37:30] that you're tapping in to writing this play. So I just wonder, as an artist, how do you keep both of those things working together in harmony or not.
Terry Baum: I'm trying to think. Now, I have one play that has a lot of anger, Divide the Living Child. It's about Christian anti-Semitism.
Terry Baum: [01:38:00] I lived for five years in Amsterdam. And I was very interested ... I really got into the Holocaust. I'm writing this play and researching, researching, researching. So it's about a Jewish woman and her teenage daughter who are being hidden by a Christian woman, who was trying to convert the daughter to Christianity.
Terry Baum: [01:38:30] So even though this Christian woman is willing to risk her life to save these Jews, she still is anti-Semitic. So that's the situation. Ultimately, the mother realizes she has to leave because the daughter has to be free. The mother's in total hiding, the daughter is going out into the world as supposedly the niece of this Christian woman whose parents were killed in the bombing of Rotterdam.
Terry Baum: [01:39:00] And it's so cool when you make things up and it turns out they were true. I thought, well, what's the excuse for this girl suddenly appearing. And then I found out talking to people in Holland that, oh yeah, that's what was said about all these Jewish children, that were masquerading as Christians. The parents were killed in the bombing of Rotterdam, because Rotterdam was the only part of Holland
Terry Baum: [01:39:30] that was destroyed by the Nazis, because they surrendered after they destroyed Rotterdam. Because that's another rage that I feel, towards Christianity, absolutely. So, Hanna's going out into the world as a Christian, and going to church,
Terry Baum: [01:40:00] and school, and all that, and she's torn between the two women. And finally the mother, the Jewish mother realizes, "Well, I have to let my daughter go so she can survive." And she leaves, even though there isn't a good place for her to hide, she leaves. But before that, she has a meltdown, because they're having a Seder.
Terry Baum: [01:40:30] Tori allows them ... the Christian woman says ... the first scene is the Sabbath, and the Christian woman says, "Oh, this is so wonderful. Jesus was a Jew and we're celebrating the Sabbath," but then they're having their little secret Passover Seder, and Tori is going along with it, and then she just explodes and says, "No. I can't have this in my house.
Terry Baum: [01:41:00] Your people killed my Savior." Then the girl falls apart, and then the Christian woman says to the Jewish mother, "If would only accept Jesus into your heart, then everything would be fine," and the Jewish mother explodes and says, " The world would have been better if his mother had strangled him in his cradle.
Terry Baum: [01:41:30] Both Jesus and Hitler should have been strangled in their cradles." It's better written than that. I can't quite remember. But anyhow, it is about strangling Jesus and Hitler in their cradles. So that's in there. Hard to get that play produced, but I feel that that's the expression. And there's light moments in it, but it is not the same as the ...
Terry Baum: [01:42:00] there's light moments in all my plays, but there's perhaps no comic moments. Maybe there should be, but there are no comic moments in it. And I'm not sure there's going to be comic moments, so I don't think I figured out yet how to include both of those things in the same piece, but I remember when I was looking at Divide the Living Child,
Terry Baum: [01:42:30] and trying to figure out, well, how do I want to change it, I was thinking, what about going, what about comic moments. There's certainly light moments, but yeah. So I don't know.
Mason Funk: Maybe I got the impression, because you tell funny stories that your plays themselves-
Terry Baum: They are. Most of them are comedies.
Terry Baum: Yeah. Like the one I'm doing ... Are you going to be here? No. No. This is in June. [crosstalk]. This is what I'm rehearsing right now, Awaiting the Podiatrist, which is about ... you know about it.
Terry Baum: Okay. You read about it. Waiting the Podiatrist is about a middle aged dyke whose father is in the coma in intensive care. The main characters are her and her mother, and it's very funny. The mother is very funny. Most of the really funny lines my mother actually said. Some of them I may have.
Mason Funk: But she could have said them.
Terry Baum: [01:43:30] Definitely, yeah. So it's a life and death situation literally, because they're deciding whether they should take dad off the ventilator or not. And yeah, the mother says these hilarious things and it's a painfully hilarious, hilariously painful relationship between the mother and the daughter. So yes, most of my stuff is funny. Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:44:00] Well, I look forward to seeing something, soon hopefully. We're going to have to wrap up and I have four final questions that I ask all my interviewees.
Mason Funk: Number one, you have a really, really interesting coming out story, so if somebody ... based on your own story or not, but if somebody came to you tomorrow and said, "Well, I'm thinking about coming out," whatever that meant to that person, what are one or two just pearls of guidance of wisdom would you offer that person? And this is intended to be a little shorter so we can-
Terry Baum: [01:44:30] Yeah. I think you should come out at your own pace. You have no obligation to tell anybody until you're ready. I would say that's important. It's a very liberating thing, but you have to decide your own pace of liberation. For me,
Terry Baum: [01:45:00] being a lesbian was so much more fun than being straight, and I do feel that I could not ... the main thing that happened when I came out was I became free, and I do not believe that I could've been free within the structure of heterosexual patriarchy. As long as I was choosing to be part of it, there was a part of me that was imprisoned in it.
Terry Baum: [01:45:30] It was a wonderful freedom, and it's been really a lot of fun, both in terms of as an artist and just a person being a lesbian. And don't worry. You can find people ... if you're a woman,
Terry Baum: [01:46:00] you can find women to treat you just as badly as the man you were with. It's okay. You don't have to worry about giving up, being a masochist.
Mason Funk: Good to know. Okay. Next question. Yes, we're in a new era, a very radically changed era, but what wakes you up, what keeps you feeling hopeful when you wake up in the morning? What's your hope for the future?
Terry Baum: [01:46:30] Well, for one thing, I feel nobody knows the future, so one of the reasons people feel pessimistic as they say, "Oh, it's horrible. Everything's going down hill," and I have to say, from studying what happened in World War Two, where quite frankly it's seemed that Hitler was going to win for quite a long time, we don't know the future. That's really important to me. We are creating the future. Nobody knows what it is.
Terry Baum: [01:47:00] And that's the trust. We don't know it. Good or bad. Certainly Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin said all the time they never could have imagined that they would make this much progress. Never. Now, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, could never imagine that they wouldn't achieve women's suffrage in their lifetime and they didn't. You don't know the future,
Terry Baum: [01:47:30] but you have to act with courage because there are young people, children, younger than you, and other people coming up, and you have to create the world for them. I don't have children, but I feel very responsible to children. Absolutely. Whatever mess there is, they didn't create it. So I do feel,
Terry Baum: [01:48:00] like my mother really felt, like," Well, gee, too bad. The world's got in a mess now, but I'm old and I'm leaving. I feel sorry for you guys." That's not how I feel as a person of 70, "Well, I've done my part, and too bad. It was fun for me."
Mason Funk: Awesome. Awesome. Now, why is it important to you to tell your story?
Terry Baum: [01:48:30] Tell my story to you? Look, I'm really not as famous as I should be. I'm not. I've written all these plays, they're really, really good. People love them. And you never heard of me, right? Am I right? You never heard of me.
Mason Funk: That's not saying much, but I never heard of you.
Terry Baum: You never heard of me. Yeah. You've heard of Judy Grahn, though. Right?
Mason Funk: No, she was just another referral.
Terry Baum: Really? You didn't know Judy Grahn either.
Mason Funk: Yeah. [crosstalk].
Terry Baum: Okay. All right. So you really never heard of anybody, have never heard of Judy Grahn.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] I had never heard of Jewelle Gomez. [crosstalk].
Terry Baum: Yeah, right. Well, Jewelle Gomez, she's more local, but Judy Grahn is certainly national and a pioneer. She's older than Jewelle and me and is really an incredible pioneer. I feel like I want people to read my plays in the future. I really believe my plays are worth living beyond my life,
Terry Baum: [01:49:30] so anything I can do to increase the possibility that people will be interested in my work, I want to do.
Mason Funk: Great. That's a great answer. That's not an answer that anybody has shared quite that way, but I really appreciate that and I hope from your mouth to God's ears.
Terry Baum: Yeah. Thank you.
Mason Funk: And lastly then, in terms of OUTWORDS as a project, what do you see is the importance of a project like Outwards, in terms of the way we're trying to collect stories from people all over the country-
Terry Baum: [01:50:00] Well, you're collecting stories from people whose stories don't usually get collected, because the same damn people get collected all the time. So that to me is the importance of it, really.
Mason Funk: Ups. Just-
Terry Baum: The dog? Is that the dogs?
Mason Funk: Yeah. And all we've got to do is say this bit, and then we can pack and run.
Terry Baum: We could close that door, so that we just don't have to-
Mason Funk: Hold that thought, and I'm just going to close this door. Poor sweet dogs.
Mason Funk: [01:50:30] Okay. If you wouldn't mind just start that same thought with exactly what you said, which, you're collecting the stories of people-
Terry Baum: Right. You're collecting the stories of people like me, who aren't well known, who've done incredible things. I mean, Corky and Lonnie, the other two women that I know you've interviewed are just very, very special people.
Terry Baum: [01:51:00] So it's important for people to understand how many of you there are, how many extraordinary people there are, how many activists, because I think people tend to focus on a few figures as leaders. The Pat Bond Memorial Old Dyke Award, which is specifically for lesbians who have not been sufficiently honored
Terry Baum: [01:51:30] for their contributions to their community. It was specifically not the Phyllis Lyon Del Martin Award. They were never going to get it. Because there are so many people who have given their hearts, and their energy, and their passion, and their creativity, and their money, so many of us,
Terry Baum: [01:52:00] and that's beautiful. It's just beautiful. It's a beautiful community to be a part of. It's a wonderful thing to be part of the gay community, truly. It's a great blessing in my life.
Mason Funk: That's wonderful. Doesn't get any better than that. Thank you so much.
Terry Baum: You're welcome.
Mason Funk: We really appreciate it. We're going to do 30 seconds of room tone.
Keith Wilson: [01:52:30] Terry room tone.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Keith Wilson
Date: May 12, 2017
Location: Home of Terry Baum, San Francisco, CA