Gary Bonasorte, Playwright Who Helped Found Rattlestick Troupe, Dead at 45

News   Gary Bonasorte, Playwright Who Helped Found Rattlestick Troupe, Dead at 45 Gary Bonasorte, the playwright and AIDS research advocate whose companion was playwright Terrence McNally, died Nov. 9 of lymphoma, The New York Times reported.

Gary Bonasorte, the playwright and AIDS research advocate whose companion was playwright Terrence McNally, died Nov. 9 of lymphoma, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Bonasorte was 45 and lived in Manhattan, where a number of his plays had been staged Off-Off Broadway and Off Broadway.

He was one of the founders of Rattlestick Theater Company, an Off-Broadway troupe that nurtures new writers and offers a mentoring program where established playwrights give advice to emerging writers. Among Mr. Bonasorte's works were The Aunts, Killing Real Estate Women, Reinventing Big Daddy and Ascendancy. The Times reported that his Big Hearts was seen as part of the Key West Theatre Festival and will receive Florida stagings in the coming year.

A Pittsburgh native, Mr. Bonasorte was a board member of the Community Research Initiative on AIDS (CRIA) in Manhattan. The non-profit organization is a "community-based AIDS research and treatment education center" that "identifies scientifically promising experimental interventions for AIDS and HIV-related illness, designs and implements clinical studies on these therapies, and submits the findings for publication; conducts research geared towards the further understanding of HIV disease and treatment; and disseminates information about AIDS treatments and research to the communities affected by HIV/AIDS," according to the group's website.

Mr. Bonasorte was a Bucknell University graduate and was an actor at the Drama Center in London. He was director of special events at the Dramatists Guild, 1993-95. McNally, the playwright and librettist known for Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Rink, Ragtime, The Full Monty and Lips Together, Teeth Apart, dedicated his 1998 play, Corpus Christi, to Mr. Bonasorte.

In January 1998, after Mr. Bonasorte's comedy-drama, Ascendancy, opened at Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, he told Playbill On-Line that McNally was a muse for him.

"He [McNally] was the inspiration behind the piece," Bonasorte said. "The great body of work he has written motivates me. And he has been a great supporter of the play, from the very beginning. He's been at every reading, every workshop. He gives great notes."

Ascendancy was reportedly based on his experiences with the Community Research Initiative on AIDS. The play documents the familial bonds that develop between patients and workers at a clinical drug trial.

"People in crises are very funny," the playwright said at the time. "I keep thinking of the comedy-tragedy masks. Ascendancy has a lot of both. Strangers coming together, not dying but living, through humor and pain, hope and spirit."

While McNally was writing Master Class several years ago, Mr. Bonasorte previously told Playbill On-Line that he was working on Ascendancy, and that they would write in separate quarters for three shifts a day, convening for meals.

Mr. Bonasorte is also survived by his father, a brother and a sister, all of Pittsburgh.

— By Kenneth Jones