Chambers was born Carolyn Jane Chambers in Columbia, South Carolina, on March 27, 1937. She spent her early years in Orlando, Florida, where she began her writing career with scripts for local public radio stations. In 1954, Chambers entered Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, intent on becoming a playwright.
This was a very frustrating time for her, however. As she told the New York Times in a 1981 interview, "When I went to college women were not allowed in the playwriting or directing courses unless there were seats left over after the men signed up." The frustration caused Chambers to leave Rollins in 1956 in order to study acting at California's Pasadena Playhouse for a season. The following year she moved to New York City.
Chambers stayed in New York for a brief time and then moved to Poland Spring, Maine, to work for TV station WMTW. In 1968, she returned to New York. Soon thereafter, Chambers, interested in completing her undergraduate degree, enrolled in Goddard College, Vermont.
Beth Allen & Jane Chambers, 1971 (©16)
Jane Chambers was one of the first American playwrights to create openly lesbian characters who were comfortable with their homosexuality. While at Goddard, she met Beth Allen, who was to become her lover, manager, and devoted lifelong companion. Subsequently Chambers's death, Allen published a collection of her poetry as a memorial to her courage and spirit. The Women in Theatre Program created the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award to encourage the writing of plays that reflect women's experience
Chambers completed her degree at Goddard in 1971. During this period, she also began to gain acceptance as a professional writer and to solidify her reputation as a playwright. In 1971, she received the Rosenthal Award for Poetry and a Connecticut Educational Television Award for her play, Christ in a Treehouse. In 1972, she was the recipient of a Eugene O'Neill Fellowship for her play Tales of the Revolution and Other American Fables, which was produced at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre in Connecticut.
It was also during this time that Chambers began to work with the Women's Interart Center in New York City. She was instrumental in establishing the theater program at Interart, and the first piece produced at the Center was her Random Violence (1972). In the early 1970s, Chambers also wrote for the CBS-TV soap opera "Search for Tomorrow," for which she received a Writer's Guild of America Award in 1973.
In 1974 Playwrights Horizons in New York produced A Late Snow. The play, which portrays openly lesbian characters who spend two eventful days while stranded together during a snowfall, was to become one of Chambers's best known. It was one of the first plays to depict lesbians in a positive light and gained Chambers a reputation for being an important lesbian playwright.
In 1980, Chambers began working with The Glines, a New York company that focused on plays representing gay and lesbian experience. Chambers wrote Last Summer at Bluefish Cove for their First Gay American Arts Festival. The play centers on a character who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the impact this has on her and her lesbian friends who vacation together every summer. Chambers wrote Bluefish Cove after one of her own friends had died from cancer; it was to take on a very ironic tone, however, when Chambers herself was diagnosed with the disease in 1981.
Throughout the next two years, Chambers continued to write and went on to produce My Blue Heaven for the Glines Second Gay American Arts Festival and The Quintessential Image for the Women's Theatre Conference in Minneapolis. In 1982, Chambers was a recipient of the Fund for Human Dignity award.
Chambers died on February 15, 1983, in her Greenport, Long Island, home. Beth Allen subsequently published a collection of her poetry as a memorial to her courage and spirit. The Women in Theatre Program of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education honored Chambers by creating the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award to encourage the writing of plays that reflect women's experience.
Chambers was one of the first playwrights to create openly lesbian characters who were comfortable with their own homosexuality. She believed that this would help eliminate homophobia. As Chambers told the New York Times, "As we become more comfortable with ourselves, the rest of the world will become comfortable with us." She opened the door for other playwrights who wished to write affirming plays about lesbians.
Beth A. Allen (born 1959) has been a lawyer in Oregon since 1998, and since 2006 has run her own law practice. She has specialized in family law and issues impacting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities -- including employment and workplace discrimination. She's also represented clients in issues surrounding adoption, surrogacy and sperm and egg donation. A news release issued by the governor’s office describes Allen as a “tireless advocate for diversity.”
Author: Kattelman, Beth A.
Entry Title: Chambers, Jane
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated November 15, 2004
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/chambers_j.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date February 15, 2014
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
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