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Mart Crowley (1935–2020), “Boys in the Band” playwright

by Kirk Fox

Mart Crowley was the groundbreaking playwright whose 1968 play “The Boys in the Band” was one of the first to portray the lives of gay men on stage. The play is about a group of gay and bisexual friends at a birthday party in New York City. It was a hit which led to a 1970 movie adaptation directed by William Friedkin. Crowley had been an assistant and close friend to actress Natalie Wood. In 2002, he wrote a sequel “The Men From the Boys,” that looked at the original character’s lives 35 years later. In 2018, a revival of “The Boys in the Band” on Broadway featured out gay actors including Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer. A new movie version of the play is due out on Netflix in 2021.

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Died: Saturday, March 7, 2020 (Who else died on March 7?)


Details of death: Died at the age of 84.

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Crowley on the play’s success: “It was about half-full on the first performance. On the second, you couldn’t get in the door to the workshop space because there were so many people. On top of that, the phone was ringing off the hook from every celebrity in town, from Leonard Bernstein to that whole West Side Story group. Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, they all came that week.” —2019 interview with the Hollywood Reporter

What they said about him: “RIP, Mart Crowley, author of the groundbreaking gay play The Boys in the Band. He was Natalie Wood’s assistant and told me she encouraged him to write the play. He nabbed a Tony when the all-star version came to Bway in ’18 and the movie version of that will come out this year.” —Writer Michael Musto

“RIP Mart Crowley, who wrote Boys In The Band. He was justly acclaimed, ignorantly attacked and finally given his due. He dissected and celebrated gay lives, and as a person, he was funny, generous and brave. He got there first, and the theater is in his debt.” —Playwright Paul Rudnick

Full obituary: Washington Post

Related lives:

  • Harvey Milk (1930–1978), openly gay politician and activist
  • Dick Leitsch (1935–2018), pioneering gay rights activist
  • Bob Smith (1958–2018), groundbreaking gay comedian

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