Cynthia Nixon, Janeane Garofolo and other top New York theater actors will perform a one-night-only benefit reading of the play Women Behind Bars Monday, May 7, at The New Group at Theatre Row.

The hilarious send-up of ’50s-era prison movies is directed by Scott ElliottWomen Behind Bars will also feature Charles Busch, Halley Feiffer, Nancy Giles, Josh Hamilton, Natasha Lyonne, Rosie O’Donnell, Rhea Perlman, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Jennifer Tilly.

The play was written by Tom Eyan, who keyed in on the subtle hints of lesbianism in the original B-movies. The New York Times described it as “an extraordinarily interesting work from one of America’s most innovative and versatile playwrights.”

It’s New Year’s Eve in 1952, in The Women’s House of Detention in Greenwich Village.  When the innocent and lovely Mary-Eleanor (Feiffer) is framed by her husband, she’s sent there. Her arrival sparks rivalries that grow into increasingly dangerous (albeit unspeakable and hilarious) conflicts with fellow prisoners and the sadistic Matron (Busch). 

An outrageous send-up of the classic genre of 1950s movies set in women’s prisons, Women Behind Bars is a wild ensemble piece by Eyan, who also wrote Dreamgirls. Eyan died of complications from AIDS in 1991.

The play premiered in New York in 1974 at The New York Theatre Ensemble, and transferred to Off-Broadway’s The Astor Place Theatre, where it opened in May 1975.

The New Group launched its 2011-2012 season with Thomas Bradshaw’s Burning. It followed with the extended run of Erika Sheffer’s Russian Transport–both directed by Scott Elliott. 

The company’s final production in the current season is the world premiere of David Rabe’s An Early History of Fire, directed by Jo Bonney, which is now running.  

The New Group and Artistic Director Elliott were honored with a Special 2010-2011 Drama Desk Award “for presenting contemporary new voices, and for uncompromisingly raw and powerful productions.”

Tickets to Women Behind Bars are extremely limited. Tickets: $350 premium seating and exclusive reception with cast immediately following the performance (all but $35 tax deductible) / $175 general reserved seating (fully tax deductible).

For tickets and information, please contact Brandon Suisse at For more information, please visit

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