Tony Award-winning playwright Mart Crowley, a Vicksburg native, died March 7 in New York City. He was 84.
Crowley brought his play “The Boys in the Band” to the stage in 1968. The play is widely seen as the first open and honest examination of gay life on the stage, a milestone in bringing gay characters to the forefront of pop culture. It shocked audiences in an era when homosexuality was still criminalized in most U.S. states, and many saw it as a precursor to the Stonewall riots and the gay rights movement. The play was adapted into a movie in 1970.
Edward Martino Crowley was born in Vicksburg on Aug. 21, 1935. After graduating from St. Aloysius High School, he studied drama at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
He briefly returned to Mississippi to become a production assistant for Elia Kazan on the film “Baby Doll,” and later worked on “Splendor in the Grass,” where he befriended actress Natalie Wood. Natasha Gregson Wagner, Wood’s daughter, is Crowley’s goddaughter.
Crowley wrote several other plays, but he primarily wrote for television, including for the hit series “Hart to Hart,” which starred Wood’s husband, Robert Wagner.
The original production of “Boys in the Band” ran for more than 1,000 performances over two years off-Broadway. In 2018, the play finally made it to Broadway as a revival, garnering a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and a Tony nomination for actor Robin De Jesús.
“There was a little of me in all the characters in that play,” Crowley once said. “I was determined to write a new kind of drama about homosexuality. All the plays I had ever seen on the subject were stereotyped, sensational, embarrassed or evasive. I tried to be thoughtful and honest and adult.”
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