Act I. The Party ONE EVENING NOT long after “The Boys in the Band” had its Off Broadway premiere in April 1968, Laurence Luckinbill, who played Hank, brought his tool kit to work. Theater Four, as the joint was called, was a dowdy old converted church in a part of Manhattan that the play’s author, Mart Crowley, called a “senseless-killing neighborhood.” But Luckinbill wasn’t lugging tools to make repairs. Instead, he drilled a hole in a piece of the set called a tormentor flat, about waist-high, so that he and his eight castmates, standing backstage, could get a glimpse of whoever was sitting sixth row center: the best seats in the house. Over the coming weeks the actors took turns peeping at the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, Groucho Marx and Rudolf Nureyev. Even New York City’s glamorous mayor, John Lindsay, showed up. This was an unexpected turn of events. “The Boys in the Band” was very much a ghetto play, a peephole aimed at gay men. In writing it, Crowley had deliberately taken up the challenge tossed down by the theater critic Stanley Kauffmann, who in a 1966 New York Times essay headlined “Homosexual Drama and Its Disguises”… Read full this story
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