Cover photo by Ed Krieger

The Twentieth-Century Way

Tom Jacobson
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The true story of two actors who hired themselves out to the Long Beach Police Department in 1914 to entrap “social vagrants” in public restrooms. Thirty-one men were arrested, and the ensuing scandal led to an ordinance against “oral sodomy” in California.

Production Info

Cast: 2 total (2 male)
Full Length Drama (about 100 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Period Costumes

Press Quotes

“Tom Jacobson’s exceptional THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WAY … is meta-theatre — dense and accurate and mysterious. While obviously influenced by Genet and Stoppard — the costuming metaphor will remind you of Genet’s THE MAIDS and aspects of Stoppard’s JUMPERS — Jacobson is working a distinctly American vernacular, and his voice is ultimately his own. There’s a lot of erotic tension in the piece, which tells a wordless story that not only informs the talk but turns us on, too. Jacobson’s real strength as an artist is his willingness to let mystery be just that.” —Hilton Als, The New Yorker

“Playwright Tom Jacobson is known for tackling challenging themes, and his latest effort — recounting a scandalous little-known chapter in Southern California history — is among his boldest. Not content to merely relate a fascinating milestone in gay-rights travails, Jacobson sets the stage for two versatile actors to explore multilayered ruminations on sexual identity, institutional corruption, the conscience of civil servants carrying out questionable duties, the mysteries of the acting craft, and more … Jacobson’s intriguing script shrewdly mixes historical fact and fictionalization. The inventive play-within-a-play structure … The play takes a startling turn at the end, bringing Jacobson’s central themes of role-playing, self-deception, and moral responsibility to a shattering conclusion.” —Les Spindle, Backstage West

“… playwright Tom Jacobson, who loves to tinker with history in surprising and ticklish ways, doesn’t seem interested in doing a docu-drama. By untethering from reality a la WAITING FOR GODOT and placing the action in the actors’ minds, he comes up with something bigger, bolder and better as the two actors onstage bend identity, twist law and criminalize sex. It is also hysterically funny and simultaneously deadly serious.” —Rod Stafford Hagwood, Sun Sentinel

“… playwright Tom Jacobson’s trademark cerebral acrobatics in his new play, THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WAY.” —Philip Brandes, The Los Angeles Times

“Tom Jacobson’s scintillating new play.” —Steven Leigh Morris, L A Weekly

“Few joys are more long-lasting than seeing a theatrical work that contains enough complexity to make one ponder. An intricate piece written and produced well will leave one peeling layers away for days. One gradually comes to full understanding of something which was, on first encounter, like an unopened bud: full of depth and richness hidden behind a structured exterior. Take, as case in point, Tom Jacobson’s intricate, fascinating, and very adult play, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY. Indeed, it is disturbing. It is historic. It is deeply moving. It needs to be seen.” —Frances Baum Nicholson, Pasadena Star News

About the Author


  • Tom Jacobson

    Tom Jacobson has had more than 80 productions of his plays, including SPERM at Circle X Theatre Company, THE ORANGE GROVE at Playwrights Arena, and the award-winning BUNBURY, TAINTED BLOOD, OUROBOROS and THE FRIENDLY HOUR at The Road Theatre Company. THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WAY premiered at The Theatre @ Boston Court and the New York International Fringe Festival (five Ovation Award nominations, four Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle nominations, one GLAAD Award nomination, Fringe Festival Award for Outstanding Production of a Play, PEN Center Award for Drama) and moved Off Broadway to Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. MAKING PARADISE: THE WEST HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL was produced by Cornerstone Theater Company (Critic's Choice in Back Stage West). He has been a co-literary manager of The Theatre @ Boston Court, a founding member of Playwrights Ink, and a board member of Cornerstone Theater Company and The Theatre @ Boston Court. Most recent productions include the world premieres of THE CHINESE MASSACRE (ANNOTATED) at Circle X and HOUSE OF THE RISING SON at Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA (Critic's Choice in Back Stage West and Los Angeles Times, nominated for a GLAAD Award and winner of two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards). Film: PRAIRIE SONATA (based on THE FRIENDLY HOUR). Opera: HOPSCOTCH, commissioned by The Industry.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 11/26/2012
Pages 78
ISBN 9780881455359

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

First produced at The Theater @ Boston Court in Los Angeles

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
The Twentieth-Century Way is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


3/26/2025 – 3/28/2025
Pittsburgh, PA

12/2/2021 – 12/18/2021
Cleveland, OH

10/1/2021 – 10/31/2021
Island City Stage
Wilton Manors, FL

7/20/2018 – 8/18/2018
Long Beach Playhouse
Long Beach, CA

10/27/2017 – 10/28/2017
Deep End Apo
Northfield, MN

7/14/2016 – 7/24/2016
Ion Theatre
San Diego, CA