Mart Crowley, Boys in the Band playwright, dies at 84

The writer’s 1968 play was seen as groundbreaking for prioritising gay characters and their stories

Mart Crowley, whose play The Boys in the Band was a hit in the late sixties, has died at 84.

The playwright died on Saturday of complications from heart surgery.

Crowley’s 1968 off-Broadway play The Boys in the Band centred on a group of gay friends gathering for a New York birthday party and was viewed as trailblazing for putting gay narratives at the forefront without demonising his characters.

“It was very different back then,” Crowley said in a 2019 interview about the original production. “You could get arrested for doing the things they do in this play … Agents said it was a career killer. I have to acknowledge the bravery of the guys who did it anyway.”

Crowley wrote the play while working as an assistant to Natalie Wood, who became a close friend. The title was taken from a line in the Judy Garland iteration of A Star is Born.

Angels in America writer Tony Kushner wrote that by creating the play, Crowley “courageously answered the call of a historical moment”.

Mart Crowley and the original cast of Boys in the Band.
Mart Crowley and the original cast of Boys in the Band. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

It was a success at the time and ran for over 1,000 performances. It was revived a number of times, most notably on Broadway 50 years later by Ryan Murphy. The Guardian’s Alexis Soloski called it “hilarious and vicious” and it won the Tony award for best revival. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Crowley called it “dazzling” and said he was “thrilled” with the production.

Murphy is currently working on an adaptation for Netflix starring Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto.

Crowley’s other plays included Remote Asylum and For Reasons That Remain Unclear. He also worked on a number of TV shows, including Hart to Hart where he acted as both executive script editor and producer.

Actor Mark Gatiss, who starred in a revival of Boys in the Band, tweeted his condolences, praising Crowley as “a mischievous, extraordinary soul”.


Benjamin Lee

The GuardianTramp

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