© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mart Crowley, Playwright of 'The Boys In The Band,' Dies At 84


Mart Crowley was a Tony Award-winning playwright who is best known for the play "The Boys In The Band." It ran off-Broadway in the late '60s, and it was revolutionary in that it was about the lives of gay men. Crowley died this weekend after a heart attack. Here's Jeff Lunden.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Mart Crowley was living in Hollywood, working as actress Natalie Wood's personal assistant and writing screenplays he couldn't get produced when Wood suggested he write a play.


MART CROWLEY: I knew I wanted to do something on gay life. I didn't know what.

LUNDEN: That's Crowley in 2018 on the 50th anniversary of "The Boys In The Band." What he wrote was a semi-autobiographical play about a group of gay men who gather for a raucous birthday party, which turns into a kind of dark night of the soul.


CROWLEY: Who was it that used to always say, you show me a happy homosexual and I'll show you a gay corpse?

LUNDEN: Getting someone to produce it in the pre-Stonewall days when people could go to jail for being gay was another matter.


CROWLEY: Nobody wanted the play; not even agents wanted to look at this play. They just thought it was pornographic and it was outrageous.

LUNDEN: Some producers, including playwright Edward Albee, took a chance, and the play became a smash hit off-Broadway. It was produced around the world and turned into a film two years later. But some felt its self-loathing characters had become dated following Stonewall's launch of the contemporary gay liberation movement. Mart Crowley firmly believed it still had something to say when "The Boys In The Band" finally made it to Broadway two years ago.


CROWLEY: And I hope helping to reinforce the importance of not losing what hard-won battles, the freedoms that have been given to this generation that knows nothing about how ugly and awful it really, really was.

LUNDEN: Mart Crowley died on Saturday.

For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE COLE'S "THE LOOK OF LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.