Pioneer lesbian playwright Terry Baum has been writing plays since 1972, on issues ranging from gay and immigrant rights, feminism, anti-Semitism, and medical-ethical dilemmas to the eternal pursuit of love. In 1972, while a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, Terry founded the Isla Vista Community Theater, which included a children’s theater project and a feminist project. Terry co-wrote and acted in all shows. In 1974, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and founded Lilith, a women's theater collective, which she led for five years. In 1979, Lilith toured Europe with Moonlighting, A Play About Women and work and Sacrifices, A Fable About the Women’s Movement, both conceived by and co-written by Terry.
Terry's first solo show, Ego Trip, or I’m Getting My Shit Together and Dumping It All on You. In 1980, Baum wrote Dos Lesbos, A Play By, For and About Perverts with Carolyn Myers. She co-starred in the original production, and this two-woman tour-de-force played for two years. Dos Lesbos has been published, translated into Dutch, Swedish, and Italian and continues to be produced around the world. It inspired the first anthology of plays by lesbians, Places, Please, (1985) edited by Kate McDermott.
In 1982, Terry’s first solo show, Ego Trip, or I’m Getting My Shit Together and Dumping It All on You, had a long run in San Francisco. This very personal show explored coming out as a lesbian and being a temp worker in a big corporation, among other compelling life issues. In 1983, Terry premiered her solo drama, Immediate Family at the First Women's Theater Festival in Santa Cruz. She has toured the U.S., Europe and in Israel with this tale of a woman's struggle to have her dying wife removed from a respirator. Since being published in Places, Please, it has been translated into French and Dutch and produced all over the world. It was a great success on Dutch stage and television, performed by a Dutch movie star. It also won the KPFA Radio Playwriting Competition. A film of Baum in Immediate Family has been shown at gay film festivals in Berlin, Milan and San Francisco. In March 2015, Baum performed Immediate Family at Mejunje, the diversity center in Santa Clara, Cuba.
In 1986, Baum moved to Amsterdam, where she created One Fool or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dutch or the Astonishing and Terrifying Adventures of a Yankee Dyke in Amsterdam. One Fool was chosen as one of the ten best plays of 1988 by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was published in Tough Acts to Follow, an anthology of gay one-act plays in 1992. While living in Europe, Terry also wrote (with Stephanie Johnson) The Black Jewish American Lesbian Show, which dealt with homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism in a probing but humorous way.
In 1991, Women in Line, an absurd farce about women's rage, was produced by Love greek theater in New York City, a gay festival in Pittsburgh, and a battered women’s shelter in Ashland, Oregon. In 1994, Baum's play Enid's Fly Trap, about the demise of a lesbian bar, won the Restless Pens Award and received staged readings in San Francisco and Ashland, Oregon. In 1996, Two Fools, or Love Conquers All – Not!, the romance of two women who can’t legally live in the same country, premiered in San Francisco. It was published in Intimate Acts (1997), and had two successful runs in New York (1998, 1999) and was produced by Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco (2004).
Divide the Living Child, was part of the Ashland (Ore.) New Plays Festival and had a full production at Ashland University in Ohio (1999). This play takes place in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and concerns a Jewish mother and daughter who are hidden by a Christian woman bent on converting the young girl. Both Enid's and Divide were semi-finalists for the Jane Chambers Award; Two Fools was a finalist.
In 2002, City Lights Theater (San Jose) commissioned Baum to write Chanukah Butch for their annual holiday show. Waiting for the Podiatrist (renamed Awaiting the Podiatrist), a solo play with songs and puppets premiered in San Francisco in 2003. This one-woman farce portrays a mother and middle-aged daughter wrestling with whether to pull the plug on the comatose father whose toenails desperately need clipping. It received rave reviews in San Francisco and toured to Ohio and Holland.
Terry’s play about her 2004 run as the Green Party candidate for Congress, Baum for Peace, premiered in Ashland, Ore., ran at The Marsh in San Francisco in 2006 and was part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival.
In January 2008, A Coupla Crackpot Crones, a collaboration with Carolyn Myers, premiered in New Mexico. The Crones’ feminist sketch comedy and improvisation have graced the New York International Fringe Festival (2012), the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival (2013, Women on the Way Festival and the National Queer Arts Festival, the University of Redlands (CA), and various venues in New York, Oregon, and California. In 2016, the Crones toured Mexico, performing in English and Spanish in Mexico City, Oaxaca, and San Miguel de Allende.
In February 2013, Baum toured her new play, Lesbo Solo! A Lesbian Life in the Theater, in South Africa. Lesbo Solo consists of excerpts from several of Terry’s plays, interspersed with her descriptions of the creation of these works. Her one-act play, Bride of Lesbostein, a lesbian parody of the Frankenstein myth, premiered in October 2013 at The Garage in San Francisco. Crones for the Holidays, written and performed by Terry and Carolyn Myers, was a hit in 2013 at the Exit Theater in San Francisco.
Terry’s solo play, Hick: A Love Story, The Romance of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt, opened in San Francisco in July 2014 to great acclaim and played to packed houses. Critics lauded the play as “A real love story like no other,” and her performance as “Brilliant!” Hick also had a sold-out run in 2015 in Berkeley. In August 2015 Hick was produced at the New York International Fringe Festival, where it was selected as a Fringe Fave and chosen for the Fringe Encore Series. Baum then performed Hick at the Baltimore Theatre Project in February 2016. Terry reprises Waiting for the Podiatrist at the 2016 San Francisco Fringe Festival where it was designated "Fringe Fave.".
Terry remains a committed political activist. Besides running for Congress, she ran for Mayor of San Francisco in 2011. She had a great time and made a difference. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild.