One of the first and foremost gay American playwrights, Doric Wilson, passed away on Saturday, May 7, 2011 in his home in New York. He was 72.
A director, producer, critic and gay rights activist, Wilson pioneered what we now think of as a gay play. One of the first playwrights at NYC’s legendary Caffe Cino, Wilson moved to NYC in 1958 where, he pioneered the Off-Off-Broadway movement, writing, directing, producing and/or designing over a hundred productions and becoming a founding member of Circle Repertory Theater and the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit.
A participant in all three nights of the Stonewall Riot, he became active in the early days of the New York Gay Liberation movement as a member of GAA (Gay Activist Alliance) and as a “star” bartender and manager of the post-Stonewall gay bar scene, opening such landmark institutions as the Spike, TY’s and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret.
In 1974, Doric Wilson (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. The company featured new plays and revivals by such writers as Brendan Behan, Noël Coward, Christopher Hampton, Charles Jurrist, Joe Orton, Terrence McNally, Robert Patrick, Sandra Scoppettone, Martin Sherman, Doric Wilson and Lanford Wilson. In June, 2001, Wilson, Mark Finley and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II ( http://www.tosos2.org ).
“His place in American Theatre is assured,” wrote his friend and colleague Felice Picano in an email to LambdaLiterary.org.
“He was one of the earliest, and one of best playwrights to treat GLBT life as it was actually lived, rather than as a problem to be solved –which his predecessors had done,” Picano observes.
“From the dealings with police corruption and the Stonewall Riots to the problem of how to find the perfect apartment, or lover, in Manhattan, Doric Wilson said the best word first, and probably last too.”
Doric Wilson’s plays Street Theater (titled Stonewall 69 outside the US), The West Street Gang, Forever Afterand A Perfect Relationship became staples of the emerging Gay Theater circuit, widely performed here and abroad and winning numerous honors, including The Villager and Chambers-Blackwell best play citations. In 1994 Wilson received the first Robert Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement in Gay Theatre.
Wilson passed away unexpectedly at home on Saturday.
“I knew his health was not good. I also knew he was at the top of his fame, happier than in all the previous years I knew, him: more ambitious and more positive,” wrote TnT Classics books publisher Francine L. Trevens, one of Wilson’s publishers.
United Stages also publishes the most recent versions of many of Wilson’s plays.
“We have lost a great advocate for the gay community and a great friend to many of us. I am glad he went quickly and quietly while at the apex of his distinguished career.”
In 2004 Wilson served as grand marshal of New York’s Pride parade and was recently featured in the documentary Stonewall Uprising.