The stigma associated with homosexuality meant actors worried about the impact accepting gay roles may have on their career. In 1978, Gay News magazine published a number of statements from Gay Sweatshop members titled, Why I’m in Gay Sweatshop. Drew Griffiths is quoted below:
‘From 1967 to 1974 I was busy pursuing a career in the straight theatre. I’d heard somewhere about painted freaks in the south wearing silly clothes and saying ridiculous things and assumed it was part of the queenery I found so unappealing. When I arrived in London in 1973 I saw them for myself and decided what they represented was definitely not for me. But there was a nagging doubt; perhaps these people were having a better time than I was; perhaps my weekend gay status was incompatible with the hard-working a-sexual, professional actor image I presented during the rest of the week. The doubt remained until I joined Gay Sweatshop in 1975. I joined with great fear and trepidation – after all, I could be ruining my career – (I remember vividly the first press call when I deliberately disassociated myself from the group, sat with my back to the cameras, afraid of being publicly identified as a homosexual) but somehow found the courage to direct two of the plays in the first season. At the end of the first six months I knew that the previous seven years had been preparation for this.’
Philip Osment, Gay Sweatshop: Four Plays and a Company. p.xv
Nancy Diuguid, an organizer of the Women’s Festival and one of the founding women members of Gay Sweatshop prepared an answer to the question ‘why a gay theatre group?’
‘We hope to make an artistic contribution to the theatrical scene; if we can attract people to us, professional theatre people and others, who are not ashamed of being gay, then we shall have made a political contribution also.’
Lizbeth Goodman. Routledge, London (1993) From Contemporary Feminist Theatres: To each her own. p.71
Simon Callow discusses his initial involvement with the company in his autobiography.
‘When I was asked to appear in Martin Sherman’s Passing By, for Gay Sweatshop at The Almost Free Theatre (you paid what you could afford), I paused for a moment, wondering what the consequences might be for my relationship with my mother. I had no other anxiety: although scarcely what you might call a political animal, I could see that this was an important, useful venture; besides, it was a great part – young and in love with a beautiful young men; I could relate to that. By no means all the actors who worked for Gay Sweatshop were gay, so it wasn’t a public admission of homosexuality; but there would be newspaper coverage, reviews and so on, which my mother might well see. Very well, I thought. Destiny has forced my hand, and I set off to break the glad tiding. ‘If you’re anything like your father,’ she responded, when I told her, ‘you’ll be a sexual beast, and since there were no women, there must have been men.’ I took this as a blessing, and went on my way. I would cross the next bridge – being interviewed – when I came to it. If I came to it…’