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Theatre

Mart Crowley, trailblazing Tony-winning playwright of The Boys in the Band, dies at 84

Patrick Kelleher March 9, 2020
Mart Crowley The Boys in the Band dies

Mart Crowley died at the age of 84 (John Lamparski/Getty)

The trailblazing gay playwright of The Boys in the Band Mart Crowley has died at the age of 84.

Crowley’s death was confirmed on Twitter by critic Michael Musto. He said Crowley had undergone open heart surgery following a heart attack and passed away several days after the procedure.

The playwright, who was from Mississippi, was best known for writing The Boys in the Band, a seminal play for the LGBT+ community. It debuted off-Broadway in 1968 and tells the story of a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party in New York City.

The Boys in the Band debuted in a world in which LGBT+ people had not yet received anything even close to mainstream representation, and it broke new ground in its depiction of queer lifestyles.

It was adapted into a feature film in 1970 and had an award-winning Broadway revival in 2018. Ryan Murphy is currently developing a Netflix film adaptation starring the cast of the 2018 Broadway revival.

Mart Crowley wrote his groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band in just five weeks in the 1960s.

Crowley, who was openly gay, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and studied acting and show business at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC., Broadway.com reports.

It was very different back then. You could get arrested for doing the things they do in this play.

He later moved to Hollywood with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. He served as assistant to actress Natalie Wood while she was filming West Side Story and she encouraged him to write The Boys in the Band. He wrote his groundbreaking play over the course of five weeks.

Speaking to Broadway.com last year, Crowley said they struggled to find actors to star in the original 1968 production of the play.

“It was very different back then. You could get arrested for doing the things they do in this play. It was quite awful and ridiculous and demeaning.

“Naturally, everybody’s agent told them not to do this play. We offered the roles and many turned it down. Agents said it was a career killer.”

The 2018 Broadway revival of the play featured an entirely gay cast including Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons.

The Boys in the Band was originally meant to run for just five performances, but was extended due to huge demand. It ultimately ran for 1,001 nights and was still running off-Broadway when the Stonewall riots kicked off in 1969.

Crowley later wrote a follow-up to the seminal play, titled The Men from the Boys, which premiered in San Francisco in 2002.

The 2018 Broadway revival of the play, which starred an entirely gay cast, won a Tony award for best revival of a play.

Crowley also had a television career, serving as executive script editor and later as producer of ABC’s mystery series Hart to Hart. He also wrote a number of other plays, but The Boys in the Band has remained his best-known work, and has gone down in history as an essential milestone in queer cultural representation.

Ryan Murphy’s Netflix adaptation of The Boys in the Band is expected to be released later this year.

More: Jim Parsons, Mart Crowley, matt bomer, netflix, Ryan Murphy, the boys in the band

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