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John Glines papers

Call Number: MS 1895

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, writings, theatrical production files, biographical and financial records, journals, memorabilia (including awards and scrapbooks), photographs, and audiovisual materials documenting Glines’s personal life, from childhood to adulthood as a gay man, and professional life as a writer for stage and screen, actor, and producer of gay theater. The Glines, the oldest professional gay theater production company in the United States, founded in 1976 by John Glines, Barry Laine, and Jerry Tobin, is also documented. The correspondence emphasizes Glines’s relationship with his mother, his maternal grandfather, Horace Lanza, his half-brothers, Bill Owen and Jim Glines, and various Yale classmates. The writings include childhood journals and other manuscripts, drafts of plays, theatrical and television scripts, and some works by others. These offer a particularly rich trove of material, because they document Glines’s development as a writer from an early age. The production material documents Glines’s development as a writer and actor through his high school, Yale, and post-Yale years, as well as numerous gay theatrical productions in New York City from the 1970s to the 1990s. Although some Glines theater productions are documented in the papers, they are more fully documented in The Glines Records (MS 1920). The biographical information features a Glines family genealogy, birth and other vital records, resumes, and newspaper clippings. Glines’s memorabilia consists mainly of high school and college scrapbooks, yearbooks, and awards. The photographs document Glines himself throughout his life (including his travels), as well as his family, friends, lovers, and associates in the New York theater scene.


  • Circa 1800-2017


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research. Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site. Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by John Glines has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Glines, 2008-2016, and the John Glines Estate, 2018 and 2022.


Arranged in four series and five additions: I. Correspondence, circa 1936-2002. II. Writings, circa 1946-1996. III. Theatrical Productions, circa 1949-2002. IV. Personal Papers, 1800-2011.

Related Materials

The Glines Records (MS 1920). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.


22.28 Linear Feet (60 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers primarily consist of correspondence, writings, theatrical production files, biographical and financial records, journals, memorabilia (including awards and scrapbooks), photographs, photo albums, and audiovisual materials documenting Glines’s personal and professional life as a writer for stage and screen, actor, and producer of gay theater. The Glines, the oldest professional gay theater production company in the United States, founded in 1976 by John Glines, Barry Laine, and Jerry Tobin, is also documented.

Biographical / Historical

The American playwright, actor, and producer John Glines aka John Owen (1933-2018) was born John Horace Glines in Santa Maria, California, on October 11, 1933. Nicknamed Tex, he was the only child of Ellen Antoinette Lanza Glines and Denzil Cassius Glines. His parents divorced, and in 1942 his mother was remarried to William Wallace Owen, whose name the family took. Glines grew up in the East Bay area of San Francisco. He attended Piedmont High School and Yale University as John Owen. He graduated from Yale University in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama. In 1962 he returned to using the name John Glines.

During college Owen (as he was then known) appeared with the Yale Dramat in a total of twelve productions as an actor. He played only comedy with the exception of his role in Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. He acted, for example, in Aristophanes’ The Birds, Shaw’s Too True to be Good, Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Stephano), and Moliere’s Tartuffe (Orgon). As head of the Saybrook (his college) Players, he co-authored, composed, directed, and appeared in two musical revues. He also co-authored, co-directed, choreographed, and appeared in a third musical revue called So What!.

Immediately after Yale, Glines went to New York City to be a trainee in the NBC Comedy Writers Development Workshop. During the next several years he would try his hand as stand-up comic, film editor, director, TV extra, and actor. Returning to California, Glines became actor/producer of summer stock, The Comedy Theatre in Oakland in 1956. This equity stock company staged Molnar’s The Play’s The Thing (Glines playing Mr. Mel); Roussin’s The Little Hut; and Shaw’s Misalliance (Glines playing Bentley Summerhayes). Back in New York City by late 1956, Glines worked as mail boy and film shipper at Channel 5 (DuMont Broadcasting Company). This led circuitously to his becoming a contract supervisor in the business affairs department of CBS News from 1959 to 1960. He made his professional acting debut Off Broadway as Richard Hare and Lord Mount Severn in an adaptation of Mrs. Henry Wood’s novel and play East Lynne, retitled Boo Hoo! East Lynne, staged at Theatre East, New York, 1959. Other Off Broadway performances included the role of Waiter (Walter Boon) in Shaw’s You Never Can Tell, the role of Me in the original revue Sam and Me, and the role of Pierre in the fifteenth-century French farce Pierre Patelin (for which he served as translator and adapter) for the short-lived American Theatre Repertory Company. He also performed as an actor-dancer in the original musical-revue Maud and Her Madness and in the revue Sunday Night Music Hall.

In 1960 Glines moved to Brooklyn Heights and worked as a temporary typist, a radiation monitor, and production assistant. About this time he also took courses at the City College of New York (CCNY) at night and worked days as a film editor for Orbit Productions. Glines then turned to directing. He was a director at the Off Broadway Rodale Week-End Theater under J. I. Rodale. In 1963 Glines directed Rodale’s comedies Man on the Bridge and A Yugoslav Medical Mystery, as well as Rodale’s so-called Biblical musical comedy Stones of Jehoshaphat. In 1964, Glines directed a series of gospel concerts at the U.S. Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. In 1965 he was elected to membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

As a staff writer in children’s television, he worked for seven years (1965-1972) on Captain Kangaroo under producer Al Hyslop and for three and a half years (1978-1981) on Sesame Street (during which time he was twice nominated for an Emmy Award). One of his last contributions to Sesame Street was to name the little red Muppet that had just been created: Elmo. He also served as a creative consultant on the Children’s Television Workshop show 3-2-1 Contact. In 1966 he served as lyricist of an animated cartoon made to promote the Peanut Growers of Alabama and Georgia; and in 1970 he wrote two animated shorts for McGraw-Hill, Johnny Appleseed and Tepozton.

Glines left Captain Kangaroo to have a musical produced Off Broadway. God Bless Coney, of which he was the author, composer, and lyricist, premiered at the Orpheum, New York, 1972. He then became head writer of a TV series produced by the Appalachia Educational Lab in Charleston, West Virginia; and he wrote for the Ballet Hispanico de Nueva York (circa 1973). He became involved in Off-Off-Broadway as author of The Bells of Hell (a one-act play), author/director of Boy on a Lonely Journey (1975), and then administrative director of playwright Doric Wilson’s company, TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), which had been founded in 1972. He directed The Great American Bike Show, which toured the country in the summer of 1975. Later in 1975 Glines served as head writer for It’s Never Too Late, an all-star PBS special for parents of preschoolers. His play In the Desert of My Soul was published by Dramatists Play Service and republished in Stanley Richards’s anthology Best Short Plays of 1976.

In 1976 Glines co-founded a not-for-profit organization for gay arts called The Glines. For the first two years The Glines maintained a Tribeca space, producing numerous gay and lesbian plays, cabaret shows, and art exhibits, fulfilling their stated purpose of being a "gay art center." After losing the space in 1978, The Glines became primarily a production company, using various Manhattan theaters to present plays like the world premiere of Doric Wilson’s A Perfect Relationship. That summer they staged a revival of Relationship, Robert Patrick’s frequently produced The Haunted Host, Richard Hall’s Love Match, and Doric Wilson’s The West Street Gang at the same Chelsea leather bar (the Spike Bar) where the latter play was originally performed. His musical Gulp!, written with Stephen Greco and Robin Jones, became the longest running Off-Off-Broadway production of 1977. The Glines would later become recognized as the country’s oldest producer of gay theater, with Glines himself being acknowledged as a major force in the acceptance of the gay experience as valid material of creative expression.

In 1980-1981 Glines served as co-producer of Jane Chambers’s Last Summer at Bluefish Cove Off Broadway (Actors Playhouse) starring Jean Smart, and in 1982 went to Broadway as co-producer of Torch Song Trilogy, which won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actor and the Drama Desk Award for Best Play. Torch Song also played three years on Broadway, establishing it as one of the longest running plays on Broadway. During the 1983 Tony Awards, Glines became the first gay person ever to acknowledge his lover on a televised awards show.

Glines subsequently became co-producer of two national companies and a London company. In 1985 he served as co-producer (with Circle Repertory) of the Broadway production of William M. Hoffman’s As Is, which was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Director, and Best Actor, and won the Drama Desk Award for Best Play of 1985. Glines won the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical Revue in 1994 for Howard Crabtree's and Mark Waldrop’s Whoop-Dee-Doo!

Glines’s later plays, produced originally by The Glines, were On Tina Tuna Walk, A Comedy (1988), In Her Own Words (A Biography of Jane Chambers) (1989), Men of Manhattan, Scenes of New York City Gay Life (1990), Chicken Delight, A Farce (1992), Body and Soul, A Romantic Comedy (1992), Murder in Disguise, A Comedy Mystery (1992), Key West (1994), Heavenly Days (1996), How Now, Voyager (1997), and Butterflies and Tigers (1998), the last based on true stories of the Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution, 1966 to 1976.

Glines produced The Glines’ First and Second Gay American Arts Festivals (1980 and 1981). He also co-produced a murder mystery at the Plaza Hotel for four weeks in the summer of 1986. In 1985, as a result of his work on As Is, he became the originator and project director of the major AIDS fundraising campaign Stamp Out AIDS. This evolved into Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, of which Glines was a founding trustee and for which he continued to serve on the advisory committee into the 1990s.

Between 1981 and 2000, Glines won numerous awards for his work as a producer, lesbian and gay community builder, and advocate for gay rights. For example, in 1981 he won the Villager Theatre Award as producer of the First Gay American Arts Festival, and in 2000 Howard Golden, the president of the Borough of Brooklyn, chose Glines as one of that year’s Lesbian and Gay Pride History Month honorees. Glines died in Bangkok, Thailand on August 8, 2018.

Guide to the John Glines Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Todd Gilman and Mary Caldera
March 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • November 2023: revised to include accession 2023-M-0017

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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