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“Basically, whenever The Civilians do something, see it.” – The New Yorker

The Civilians examine the intimate lives of Depression-era queers in this kaleidoscopic, musical fantasia adapted from the 1941 text Sex Variants, a “medical study” of LGBT+ sexuality.


In their latest venture, The Civilians mine an extraordinary archive to reveal the intimate lives of Depression-era queers.

Co-conceived by writer/director Steve Cosson, James La Bella, and multimedia artist Jessica Mitrani, Sex Variants of 1941 is a kaleidoscopic fantasia adapted from a medical study of queer sexuality. Drawing on the study’s explicit interviews, pseudoscientific analysis, “medical” diagrams, and glossary of era-specific slang, the company uses scenes, songs, and striking visuals to celebrate an undersung community—and subvert the pathologizing gaze of the medical establishment.

Featuring original songs by star composers Martha Redbone, Stephen Trask, the late Michael Friedman, and others, this unabashedly queer, unabashedly screwball show paints a radically candid portrait of queer America in the 1930s. Racy bits and all.


Founded in 2001, The Civilians is a New York City company that creates exuberant “investigative theater” on vital social and political questions. The company develops shows based on original interviews and research, and nurtures the work of leading playwrights and composers. Celebrated productions include The Great Immensity (a globe-crossing adventure on the climate crisis), In the Footprint (multiple top-10 lists play about urban development), and Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (fourth-best play of the past 25 years according to The New York Times). The company originated Lucas Hnath’s Dana H., recently on Broadway and included in Top 10 of 2021 lists by The New York Times and Time magazine and was the creative home of composer Michael Friedman from 2001 until his passing in 2017. Previously, they were Artist-in-Residence at WNYC’s The Greene Space and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Led by Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson, The Civilians continues to reinvent theater for a world on the edge. 


1 hour and 15 minutes.


NYU Skirball’s programs are made possible in part with support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the Howard Gilman Foundation; Van Cleef and Arpels; Collins Building Services; General Delegation of the Government of Flanders to the USA; and Marta Heflin Foundation; as well as our valued donors through memberships, commissioning, and Allies for Arts Access Fund support.


Thu, Nov 14 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Nov 15 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Nov 16 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Nov 17 @ 2:00pm

Thu, Nov 21 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Nov 22 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Nov 23 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Nov 24 @ 2:00pm

Go Beyond

Prep School: #Stonewall50

Resources on the history and legacy of Stonewall.