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PRIDE: How 1968's 'The Boys In The Band' Helped Transform A Generation

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! In June, WriterJump celebrates over 100 years of LGBTQ+ film, TV, and artists.

The Boys In The Band, Matt Crowley’s 1968 Off-Broadway play about nine men who gather in a Manhattan apartment to celebrate a birthday and bare their souls, was a watershed moment in its unabashed portrayal of gay life to mainstream audiences.

Theater Mania’s Peter Filichia recalled in 2002 that the original production inspired the 1969 Stonewall riots and gay rights movement as a whole.

“After gays saw The Boys in the Band,” he wrote, “they no longer would settle for thinking of themselves as pathetic and wouldn't be perceived as such any longer. Now that characters had brought their feelings out of the closet, this new generation would dare to be different. And, just as some whites' view of blacks changed after seeing A Raisin in the Sun, so too did the outlook of many straights after they caught The Boys in the Band. Some whom I personally know felt terrible and – I saw this happen! – actually changed the way they treated gays.”

It might be difficult today to understand the challenge that the subject posed at the time for Crowley and for potential performers. As Crowley pitched the concept around town, some agents wanted nothing to do with it or him. It also proved "nearly impossible to find" actors willing to play gay characters until Crowley's former college buddy, Laurence Luckinbill, consented to take the role of Hank, despite his agent assuring him it would be a career ender and the fact that she, herself, was a lesbian.

The play would go on to win two Obie Awards and a Tony, and prompt a sequel by Crowley, The Men From The Boys (2002). It would also inspire two feature films, one in 1970 and the other half a century later.

Check out the 2020 version on Netflix. ❤️🌈🎬

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