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The Boys in the Band April 1968: playwright-performer David Drake revisits Mart Crowley's acid drama, the first play to smash the closet right onstage. (Bold beginnings).

Rarely does a play become a lightning rod for public discourse. But in April 1968 it happened in New York City when a first-night crowd encountered The Boys in the Band. Suddenly, a piece of theater became a yardstick against which gay men measured themselves. While the American psyche grappled daily with Vietnam, race riots, and the psychosexual shattering spurred by the free love movement, Mart Crowley's depiction of eight homosexual men at a Manhattan birthday-cum-cocktail party--men snarling with cynicism, snapping with pessimism, and limping from the wounds of unrequited love--was more than a sign of the times. It was the mainstream culture's first peek into that great societal container: the closet. Fourteen months later the same gnarled rage that was electrifying audiences in Crowley's show would find its way to the streets, erupting in real life as patrons at the Stonewall Inn burst through the confines of the closet forever on June 27, 1969.

When I starred in the 1996 off-Broadway revival of Boys, public discourse resumed: How far had we come? Although the play's Nehru jackets and blaring Supremes soundtrack were obviously relics of the past, it remained clear that the trauma of the closet--with its power to contain or release an individual--is still very much with us.

Drake is currently appearing in his new solo show, Son of Drakula, at New York's Dance Theater Workshop.
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Author:Drake, David
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
Previous Article:The Advocate 35: the anniversary issue.
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