“I don’t know if I knew what I was doing, to tell you the truth,” said the late Mart Crowley about his 1968 queer play The Boys in the Band in a new featurette above. In the end it doesn’t matter if he had a plan—what came out of the playwright five decades ago has become a seminal piece of queer theatre that still strikes a chord with audiences.
As he takes viewers through his apartment in the short film, Crowley shares his appreciation for both the original Off-Broadway cast (and subsequent film) and that of the Tony-winning revival in 2018, who star in the Netflix adaptation, now streaming.
“I want to acknowledge the bravery of those guys that took on those parts, even against the advice of their agents,” the playwright says of the original leading men back in 1968. Later, he shows a special gift that they gave to him: a gold cigarette box from Tiffany’s engraved with “thank you and fuck you”—a memorably acerbic line from the play.
Pointing out portraits of friends on his dresser, Crowley also reveals that a number of real people served as inspiration for the characters—a fact that enabled the new cast to strike up correspondence with the playwright.
“Mart wrote me probably the most beautiful email about the history of Bernard, a boy he knew that he was enamored by,” says Michael Benjamin Washington, who plays the character. “It was mind-blowing for me.” Andrew Rannells (Larry) and Jim Parsons (Michael) had similar experiences, using the playwright’s memories to create a richer performance.
Cast members Zachary Quinto (Harold), Brian Hutchison (Alan), Tuc Watkins (Hank), Matt Bomer (Donald), Robin De Jesús (Emory), and Charlie Carver (The Cowboy) as well as writer-producer Ned Martel talk about the play’s impact on their own contemporaries.
“It’s gone through so many iterations in terms of how it’s been perceived by a society,” says Bomer. “It was loved and adored because it was the first time gay men were portrayed like this on stage, then it was reviled because people thought it was regressive, and then I think the nice thing is 50 years later, people were able to revisit it in a way that was like, ‘Oh, this is part of our history’.”
That history is what led Crowley to offer director Joe Mantello free reign to interpret the piece however he wanted for the stage and screen for today's audiences. ”I think he knows after 50 years that the script is really sturdy,” says Mantello, calling the playwright ”completely generous.”
Crowley passed away March 9, 2020, leaving behind a legacy of works that shed light on the gay experience.