The Compton's Cafeteria Riot

Event has passed (Thu Feb 22, 2018 - Sat Mar 17, 2018)
New Village Cafe
Museums, Theater / Performance Arts


The Tenderloin Museum is proud to announce the premiere of The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, an original, interactive theater piece directly inspired by the historic riots that launched transgender activism in San Francisco. The 1966 Riot at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria is an integral piece of the Tenderloin’s identity, and this play offers a singular opportunity for audiences to celebrate the individuals whose tenacious spirit spawned a movement against the long history of discrimination and violence. Attendees will convene for a late night breakfast at the New Village Cafe (a surrogate for the long-gone Compton’s on Turk and Taylor), where a 12 person cast will recreate the neighborhood's seminal act of resistance and immerse the audience in the tribulations of a marginalized community striving for survival and recognition.

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

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

The play is directed by an Oakland based artist with a background in performance art and dance, AeJay Mitchell, who helmed a recent production of Kheven LaGrone's Legend of Pink at Theater Rhinoceros to critical acclaim. The cast is comprised of twelve local performers, including celebrated SF drag queens Lavale Davis, Jaylyn Abergas, Pleasure Bynight, and Shane Zaldivar, as well as the Senior Advisor on Transgender Initiatives to the Mayor of San Francisco, Clare Farley, and acclaimed writer Kelly J Kelly.

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


  1. New Village Cafe 1426 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA