Driftwood

Garret Theatre

49th Street

New York, NY

Opened January 15, 1959

Driftwood was a play by Maurice Tei Dunn that was performed for six weeks. Seventeen-year-old Jim McDowall directed the play which featured 16-year-old Barbra Streisand.

“I remember throwing up my egg salad sandwich before I went on,” Barbra said.

Joan Rivers (in 1959 she was known as Joan Sandra Molinsky) told the story for years that she and Streisand played lesbian lovers in Driftwood. “It was my idea,” Rivers said. “It was a man’s part and they couldn’t cast it, so I said ‘I’ll do it! Make them lesbians!’ and Barbra was really thrilled.”

Streisand in Driftwood

Rivers jokingly confessed, “Let me tell you, Barbra is a great kisser, but no tongue…”

Author James Spada disproved Rivers' story when he interviewed Driftwood playwright Maurice Tei Dunn in his book Streisand: Her Life.

The actual story of the play—as written—concerned “Gregg,” a beachcomber in Indiana in 1924 in love with “Anne,” pretending to be “Diana of the Dunes” in order to escape the clutches of her millionaire boyfriend. Miss Blake, a local property owner (played by Rivers), tries to stab “Anne/Diana” and Streisand played “Lorna,” a character who had a mysterious relationship with “Gregg”—with one scene in the first act, and a final scene in the last ten minutes of the play. “Lorna” is revealed to be the woman who helped “Gregg” escape from prison, and also the person behind a series of truck hijackings in the area!

“There was no lesbianism in my play. I can't imagine where Joan got that,” Dunn said. Streisand and Rivers did not share a scene. “That picture of them together ... was posed during rehearsals.”

Dunn also told James Spada that the Garret Theater was actually an attic on the 55th floor of his walk-up railroad flat. It was cramped with forty seats purchased from an out-of-business shoe store. Admission was $1.50.

Barbra Streisand also graduated from Erasmus Hall High School on January 26, 1959 during the run of Driftwood.

End.

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