Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Boys in the Band is a drama about coming to terms with oneself—in this instance, the acceptance of one’s homosexuality. The central figure of the play, Michael, is unable to accept his homosexuality, as his friend and onetime lover Harold tells him at the end of the play; thus, he remains a self-hating and unhappy man. However, Mart Crowley’s drama made such self-acceptance possible in many ways. When Michael finally tells Donald that homosexuals must learn not to hate themselves quite so much, he is speaking not merely of himself but also of the gay community at large. Crowley’s play was probably the first commercially successful drama to deal realistically—in both its language and its wide range of character types—with homosexuals. As a result, it is historically important in the American theater tradition. It was produced in early 1968, prior to the Greenwich Village Stonewall Inn riots, which, later that year, initiated the gay liberation political movement. Crowley’s play has come to be seen by some as dated, exploring fears of being publicly known as homosexual that for the most part have been set aside, particularly by gay men in large urban areas of the nation. In effect, homosexuals have learned exactly what Michael states they all must learn at the end of the drama: not to indulge in self-hatred.

Crowley’s play was distinctive when first presented in that it offered the arch stereotype of homosexuals generally held...

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Much of The Boys in the Band is concerned with the various ways that gay men thought of themselves in the late...

(The entire section is 1210 words.)