Mart Crowley

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Mart Crowley is known primarily for his plays. He wrote the screenplay for a 1970 film adaptation of The Boys in the Band. He is also the screenwriter of Cassandra at the Wedding and co-author of Fade-in (neither screenplay released), and has several teleplays to his credit.

Achievements

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Mart Crowley brought the subject of male homosexuality into the open in the American theater with his 1968 comedy-drama The Boys in the Band. His plays are characterized by a clashing mix of personality types and a keen comic sense for one-liners. The significance of Crowley’s work rests entirely on his first play and its introduction of a once-taboo subject. The play and the subsequent film adaptation of it are important milestones in the history of gay activism in the United States. Unlike Tennessee Williams, William Inge, and Edward Albee, who kept the topic of homosexual passions on the periphery of their work, Crowley made the initial leap that openly established gay drama and unapologetically linked his own life with his writing. The playwright’s outrageously comical dialogue and his daring display of his own emotional failures are the most impressive and perhaps the most enduring of his contributions to the stage. A 1996 revival of Boys in the Band at the WPA Theatre in New York City received critical and audience substantiation of its durability, relevance, and historical importance twenty-eight years after its first production.

Bibliography

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Carlsen, James W. “Images of the Gay Male in Contemporary Drama.” In Gayspeak: Gay Male and Lesbian Communication, edited by James W. Chesebro. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1981. A serious examination of the effects of Crowley’s play on social perceptions of homosexuals in the early 1970’s, and of subsequent changes in the dramatic interpretations of gay characters, such as in Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July (pr., pb. 1978) and Martin Sherman’s Bent (pr., pb. 1979).

DeGaetani, John L. A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Discusses The Boys in the Band, especially Michael’s Catholicism; Crowley notes that, as of 1991, the “Catholic Church still teaches that homosexual practices are a sin.” Good update on Crowley’s views on gay rights, homophobia, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, and AIDS.

Epstein, Hap. Review of For Reasons That Remain Unclear by Mart Crowley. Washington, D.C., Times, November 15, 1993. Epstein points out that whether or not the play holds autobiographical clues, the playwright’s drought is over. Citing the play as “particularly good and gutsy,” he commends Crowley’s treatment of the issue of child molestation and the Catholic priesthood.

Feingold, Michael. “Queerly Beloved.” Village Voice 27 (July 2, 1996): 82. Includes a review of The Boys in the Band. Feingold dismisses as minor flaws the drama’s plot contrivances and datedness of 1968 gay types held up for comparison with 1996. He praises Crowley as the first and most effective anthologist of gay urban behavior.

Kroll, Gerry. “And the Band Played On.” Advocate 708 (July 28, 1996): 47. Kroll profiles Crowley’s career leading up to the success of The Boys in the Band and his thoughts of writing a sequel. Crowley’s reaction to the 1968 performance is discussed; the playwright felt the play was unfairly criticized as being pessimistic and cited the characters of Hank and Larry as reflecting a positive relationship.

Raymond, Gerard. “Boys Will Be Boys: Crowley’s Characters Get a Second Opinion.” Village Voice 25 (July 2, 1996): 83. Discusses the 1996 revival, its actors and their opinions about their characters, the drama’s issues, and the audience’s reaction.

Rouseck, J. Wynn. “‘Reasons’ Finds Mystery Outside the Confessional.” Baltimore Sun, November 16, 1993. Cites that the play is Crowley’s first in nine years, and deals courageously with controversial issues within the Catholic Church. Rouseck notes that on the same day the play opened, and the day after, two scandals concerning Catholic clergy and sexual abuse occurred.

Scheie, Timothy. “Acting Gay in the Age of Queer: Pondering the Revival of Boys in the Band.” Modern Drama 42 (Spring, 1999): 1-15. Scheie defines the attitude and persona of the gay spectator, the queer spectator, and the humanist spectator. He notes that all three audience types will come together to watch The Boys in the Band in a shared recognition of history, desire, and constraint.

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Critical Essays