Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States in 1968 when Mart Crowley penned, BOYS IN THE BAND. Many who attended the staged reading of the play on May 17th surely felt “Has it been that long?!” Comments overheard were “I was sixteen when I saw it.” “I saw the movie in college when it premiered.” While the senior crowd was omnipresent in the theatre this show is not simply for a greying mob waxing nostalgic. The blend of youth and experience in the LGBTQ community was evident in the cast, crew and audience; the amount of reflection and celebration equal, too, in those who participated.
One does not have to be a member of the “gay community” to appreciate the power of the spoken word in a dramatic piece chronicling the early period of the still-closeted, pre-AIDS, mainly male urban American homosexual.
The choice of a staged reading of the work over a full performance was insightful. The actors each held their script (hard copy or electronic) as they read their lines…but more was served along with the imaginary lasagna, alcohol-in-abundance, and birthday cake. The actors’ visceral delivery of their lines and the limited movement all over the stage enabled the audience to be engaged in the lives of the nine characters and the heart-wrenching “celebration” of one of their birthdays.
Full of the campy and over-feminization-bordering-on-misogynistic (but true to the times) banter of the characters, the actors delivered the true spirit of Crowley’s play as powerfully as, one would imagine, it was performed that first night 49 years ago.
Pride Films and Plays’ “Nearly 50” celebration kicked off a month’s-long playlist of staged readings, musicals, contests and dance performances for the entire community in Chicago and its environs. In the nearly fifty years since the play’s debut, much has happened in our society and around the world touching on issues of prejudice, violence, human rights and dignity, acceptance and equality. From the Stonewall Riots a year after Boys in the Band’s opening to the Orland shootings, to marriage equality in our present time, there is much to be celebrated, memorialized and chronicled.
The Pride Center's home in Buena Park on Broadway Ave. It was inaugurated in January, 2017 with “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.” They are also host to resident theatre companies such as Red Tape Music Theatre, Underscore Music Theatre in addition to Pride Films and Plays.
Pride Arts Center
4139 N. Broadway
Thru June 18th
For more information about all the Pride Month events being hosted by Pride Films and Plays click here and then click a READ MORE button in that story.