It is hard today to recall the full extent of the furore that surrounded the first productions of Mart Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band. First produced off Broadway in April 1968, a year before the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a new militant gay politics, it quickly became a hit, and was staged in Sydney later that year, where it ran for seven months.
Scott McKinnnon, in his essay ‘The Activist Cinema-goer’ (published in History Australia, 2013: 10:1), wrote:
In a series of articles, the Sydney Morning Herald called the play a ‘trailblazer in frankness’, praised its ‘uncompromising candour’ and suggested that its box-office success was a sign that ‘times have changed’. The ‘frankness’ and trailblazing qualities of The Boys in the Band, however, were not based on praise for a newly liberated attitude to gay people but rather on the play’s framing of homosexuality – and homosexuals – as a significant social problem. Thus, the Herald could express admiration for playwright Mart Crowley’s efforts in revealing ‘the homosexual as a suffering human being’. Praise was also given to the play’s promoters for ‘marking on tickets that [attendance] was at the playgoer’s own risk’ and for ‘emphasising that [the play] is a social drama about a sociological problem’.