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Government and Politics

Behind the new play about feminist and LGBT activist Ivy Bottini

Bree Zender
Lisa Keating portrays Ivy Bottini. InclusIVitY: The Ivy Bottini Story opens in Paso Robles on Sunday.

Ivy Bottini is a feminist, actor, artist and activist. She’s probably best known for designing the logo for the National Organization for Women, or NOW. And now, she’s the subject of a new original play called InclusIVitY: The Ivy Bottini Story.


It’s written and directed by Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Professor Al Schnupp. The show premieres this Sunday at Studios in the Park in Paso Robles. Schnupp interviewed Bottini about her fascinating life several times over the past four years to research for this play.


“Almost instantly, I knew this was a personality meant for the stage,” Schnupp said.


Bottini was born in 1926 on Long Island New York. Schnupp said she had a wonderful relationship with her father, but her mother would often yell and scream about things that Bottini could not understand. Schnupp portrays this in the opening scene of the play.


As you see Bottini grow into a woman in the play, the audience sees her becoming more and more attracted to other women. Schupp said there was one big turning point in her life, just 10 days before she was supposed to marry a man named Eddie.

“And suddenly, she can’t swallow,” Schnupp said. “And her doctor says, ‘You need to see a therapist.’ And he declares, ‘Oh, you’re not lesbian. All you have to do is get rid of your sporty friends and be friends with women who are married. And things will be fine. You know, you’re not a lesbian.’ But it’s a turning point because in that scene, she admits, ‘I think I’m queer. It’s women that I adore.’”


Credit Bree Zender
Lisa Keating, cast as Ivy Bottini, in rehearsal. Her character sits in a typing class, describing her crush on her teacher.

It was only after being married to Eddie for 16 years that Bottini came out to her family and friends. By then, Bottini was involved with the women’s movement of the 1960s and was the president of NOW in Manhattan. Schnupp says he wanted to portray how complex it was to be openly queer in the ‘60s, even in feminist circles. Bottini pushed for acceptance of LGBT issues in NOW, but was rejected by her peers. But by 1970, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, pushed Bottini and other lesbians out of the organization.

“Ivy was really amazed. Blindsided. Distraught,” Schnupp said. “[She] packed up and said, ‘I’m getting out of New York.’ And came to LA. And at that time, she said, it was a lot easier to be gay in LA.”


Credit Bree Zender
Playwright Al Schnupp takes notes with Creative Consultant Sabrina Orro. Schnupp is a professor at Cal Poly's Theatre and Dance Department.

Schnupp has written many plays about women and activism. He said that this play, especially, is important to be staged during this particular day and age.


“Oh Lord. I just look at what’s been happening,” Schnupp said. “It just seems like in some ways we’re moving backwards. And Ivy is on a march to move us forward. To be inclusive. To celebrate all of humanity.”


Ivy Bottini is now in her 90s, and will be in attendance at the play’s premiere on Sunday evening at 7:30 in Studios in the Park in Paso Robles. Bottini will answer questions about her life and sell some of her artwork on site. The cost is $45.00.  Additional performances will occur on August 21- 24, and 27- 29 at 7:30 pm.  The cost is $15.00. You can find tickets by emailing Schnupp at

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