Gay theatre pioneer Doric Wilson passes at 72

Gay theatre pioneer, and a dearly beloved friend of mine, Doric Wilson passed away in his sleep on the evening of May 7, 2011.

In 1961 his comedy And He Made A Her opened at Greenwich Village’s legendary Caffe Cino, and he became one of the Caffe’s first resident playwrights. The success of his four Cino Plays helped, in the words of playwright Robert Patrick – another pioneer in the gay theatre movement – to “establish the Cino as a venue for new plays, and materially contributed to the then-emerging concept of Off-Off-Broadway.”

Also at the Cino in 1961 his Now She Dances! was the first American play to deal positively with gay people, a founding moment in the gay theatre movement. He was one of the first playwrights invited to join the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit and later became a founding member of Circle Repertory Company.

Doric was also a notable gay activist. He participated in the Stonewall riots (an experience commemorated in his 1982 masterpiece Street Theater), and was active in the Gay Activist Alliance, an early gay liberation organization. In 2004, Doric was one of the Grand Marshals of the 35th Anniversary New York City Pride Day Parade. He is featured in the documentary film, “Stonewall Uprising” (2010), recently aired on PBS.

In 1974, Doric (with Billy Blackwell, Peter del Valle and John McSpadden) formed TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the first professional theatre company to deal openly and honestly with the gay experience. In June 2001, Wilson, and directors Mark Finley and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II (of which I am a member). The return of TOSOS has been met with critical acclaim and awards and has achieved a well-earned reputation for the talent and professionalism of its company.

Of Doric, Edward Albee has said, “If you look at Doric Wilson’s work of the last fifty years, you will see that … there’s one word that he’s never heard, and this is ‘compromise.’ Doric has always told it as it is. He has never believed in playing it safe and the word ‘sugar-coating’ is not in his vocabulary either. His theater is tough, funny and right on target. No pussyfooting for Doric: he doesn’t write gay theater; he writes queer theater.”

Doric was one of a kind, a great spirit, and will be sorely, sorely missed.

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