The Teaches of Beaches: Popular writer brings one-woman show to Philly

Out author and journalist Fay Jacobs brings the vibe of Rehoboth Beach to town for the Philadelphia premiere of her acclaimed one-woman show, “Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay,” July 16 at Mt. Airy Garage.


The native New Yorker and longtime journalist is best known for her award-winning essay collections, “For Frying Out,” “As I Lay Frying,” “Fried and True” and “Time Fries.” But lately she’s been forging a reputation as the “Last Comic Sitting” for her humorous performances in LGBT-centric towns like Rehoboth and Provincetown. But she hasn’t performed in Philadelphia until now.

“I’m very excited about it,” Jacobs said about her upcoming Philadelphia debut. “I’ve been all over the East Coast and I haven’t really been outside of the borders of Rehoboth too much. So I’m very excited about being in Philly. I had explored early-on opportunities [to play Philly] but things happened so fast. I went to New Orleans, Florida and New York. Finally I got around to a friend asking the Arts Garage and they said, ‘We’d love to have you.’ So it’s super.”

“Aging Gracelessly” finds Jacobs using her humorous stories, both new and published, to address LGBT issues.

“It’s a little of both,” she said about her old and new pieces. “There’s a narrative with the show, mostly about marriage equality and a little bit about the history of gay culture in the old days, and that is all new. A couple of the columns that I’ve read at conferences that people really enjoy are also in the show. But essentially it’s a narrative. The point is, nothing is ever so bad if it’s worth a story you can tell.”

With the rise in acceptance of LGBT issues and the dwindling number of LGBT bookstores, publications and clubs, we asked Jacobs if she sees the mainstreaming of LGBT culture as a positive thing.

“My theory is changing,” she said. “At first, I was concerned that we were losing our gay culture by being caught up in the mainstream. Obviously, there was a huge yearlong honeymoon in every sense of the word after the marriage-equality decision from the Supreme Court. But obviously recent bathroom bills and religious-freedom bills and, of course, the horrible massacre in Orlando have shown us that the fight is not over and safe places are still necessary. I think like any other culture, sometime we like to celebrate with our own. Therefore coming to Provincetown and going to Rehoboth are necessary still and are going to live on. I think we have our allies and we’re bringing more straight people with us. I like that. I was very interested to see audience reactions to my show because a lot of it is universal but a lot of it is about GLBT issues. But the audiences are really diverse and everybody seems to get it.”

Jacobs added that, for some in her audiences, her shows are the first time they are hearing these accounts of LGBT history.      

“I was on an Olivia Cruise and after the show a lot of young women came up to me and said, ‘Oh, my goodness I had no idea. We didn’t know those stories. We didn’t know how it was. Thank you for sharing,’” she said. “I thought that was cool. I was really happy to have that. On the other hand, when I tell stories to people in my age group, everybody can relate because they’ve been there too. It’s a good vehicle for passing along our gay culture.”

While there are fewer LGBT publications and outlets for writers to contribute to these days, Jacobs said her live performances help to get her stories out there — and she isn’t too concerned about the future of LGBT media.

“In a way it bridges the gap, but I’m a journalist first and of course I hate to see newsprint becoming less important,” she said. “But local papers are thriving. So there’s a market for publications where it may not be for the New York Times or the Washington Post. So much of that is on television or on the Internet. But I think some of our publications are going to live on and be strong. The ad dollars may not be there but I don’t think we are going to lose it completely and I think there are so many wonderful blog opportunities for the GLBT market. I do love that fact that I have been able to do this show. It was supposed to be a one-and-done thing at Camp Rehoboth and it went so well and so many people wanted to see it that it just snowballed and it makes me happy that I finally have a career on stage after I got my Medicare card.”

Even though her “50 Shades of Fay” remains popular and is booked at venues all over the country through the rest of the year, Jacobs is also working on new adventures and stories to talk about in future shows and books.  

“I’m going to Iceland and we’ve rented an RV. We’re arriving for Gay Pride weekend and driving around the whole country,” she said. “That should be interesting. I’ve got a new collection of columns from Camp Rehoboth and Delaware Beach Life coming out in April. There’s just so much going on. The next one is going to be about gay culture specifically so I think there is another show in me down the road. But this one, there’s a lot still to be told and the equality issue speaks to everybody.” n

Fay Jacobs performs the Philadelphia premiere of “Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay” 8 p.m. July 16 at Mt. Airy Art Garage, 11 W. Mt. Airy Ave. For more information or tickets, call 215-242-5074. For more information about Jacobs and her books, visit