Playwright Mart Crowley, best known for The Boys in the Band, died March 7 at the age of 84. The writer spent his career dedicated to creating works that often shed light on the queer experience, seen by audiences in theatre and on television.
The Boys in the Band originally debuted Off-Broadway in 1968, and was turned into a film in 1970 by William Friedkin. The drama, considered a groundbreaking piece of LGBTQ+ theatre in the 20th century, follows a group of gay men who convene in a New York City apartment for a friend’s birthday party. As the evening continues, the cracks beneath their friendships begin to show, bringing to light self-inflicted heartache and identity crises.
Fifty years later, the play opened on Broadway for the first time for a limited run at the Booth Theatre. In 2019, Mr. Crowley won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Since the play was never eligible in the Best Play category, the playwright was ruled eligible to win alongside the producers. A film adaptation, also directed by Joe Mantello, is currently in development at Netflix, featuring the recent Broadway cast (including Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons, Andrew Rannells, Matt Bomer, and Robin de Jesus).
“It’s crazy to think that he wrote Boys in the Band over 50 years ago and those gay characters have more diversity and layers than most gay characters now,” said Tony nominee De Jesus in an Instagram post. “Thank you for being so niche that you became universal.”
Born August 21, 1935, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mr. Crowley grew up on the Gulf Boast before heading to Washington, D.C. to study drama at the Catholic University of America. While working on 1961’s Splendor in the Grass in NYC, the writer found mentors in luminaries like Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, and Natalie Wood, the latter hiring him as an assistant.
His other plays include the 1970 vacation drama Remote Asylum, the autobiographical A Breeze from the Gulf, the divorce comedy Avec Schmaltz, and the Catholic Church scandal exploration For Reasons That Remain Unclear. Mr. Crowley also wrote a sequel to his seminal work, titled The Men From the Boys, which premiered in 2002 at New Conservatory Theater Center in San Francisco.
In addition to his theatre credits, the writer assisted on several TV and film projects such as Hart to Hart, There Must Be a Pony, Bluegrass, and People Like Us. In 2009, he won the Lambda Literary Award for The Collected Plays of Mart Crowley. He is also the co-author of Kay Thompson’s Eloise Takes A Bawth.