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Doric Wilson
February 24, 1939–May 7, 2011

by Demian
© August 26, 2011, Demian

Doric Wilson
April 9, 2009
photo: Shen Wei  
About Doric
Born Alan Doyle Wilson on February 24, 1939, in Los Angeles, California, where his family was temporarily located. Doric was the only child of Howard and Marjorie Doyle Wilson, and was raised on his grandfather’s ranch at Plymouth, Washington on the Columbia River.

According to Robert Simonson, who was informed by Richard Stehr, (a roommate with Doric in 1961), Doric long perpetuated the myth his middle name was Doric and not Doyle.(See Robert Simonson’s quote about Doric below.)

He wrote his first play at Kennewick High School. His English teacher told him that no student of hers was capable of writing a play, accused him of plagiarism and gave him a failing grade.

He received his early theater training under Lorraine Larson, apprenticed with Dorothy Seeburger and the Richland Players (Washington), and studied briefly at the Drama Department of the University of Washington until he was asked to leave after initiating a one-person protest against anti-gay shootings at a nearby park.

Doric moved to NYC in 1958 where, under the mentorship of producer Richard Barr, he became a pioneer of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, writing, directing, producing and/or designing more than 100 productions. He became a founding member of Circle Repertory Theater, and the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit.

Doric Wilson
Caffe Cino, 1965
Robert Simonson recalls Doric stating that “I was involved with Circle Rep at the time when it suddenly occurred to me that I could use the Cino experience to combine my talents with my politics. I could focus my life and abilities to promote a theater dedicated to an honest and open exploration of the GLBT life experience and cultural sensibility.”

A participant in all three nights of the Stonewall Riot, which started on June 28, 1969, 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 landmark institutions such as the Spike, TY’s and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret.

In 1974, Doric Wilson — along 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 New Delhi, India, in 2009, the government attempted to ban A Perfect Relationship, because it dealt with homosexuality. Reportedly it made its international debut to packed houses.

In June, 2001, Wilson, Mark Finley (See Mark Finley’s quote about Doric below.) and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II. In 2009, Mark Finley dropped the “2” — and it went back to “TOSOS.”

Doric’s plays Street Theater (titled “Stonewall 69” outside the US), The West Street Gang, Forever After, and A Perfect Relationship became staples of the emerging gay theater circuit, widely performed here and abroad. They won numerous honors, including The Villager and Chambers-Blackwell best play citations. Doric’s major plays have been translated into Italian by Paolo Casiddu.

In 1994, Doric received the first Robert Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement in Gay Theatre.

Doric was a member of The Dramatist Guild and the Evette Society.

In March 2011, Doric’s 50-year career as a playwright was celebrated at the Laurie Beechman Theater in Manhattan. Playwright Edward Albee was a speaker. (See Edward Albee’s quote about Doric below.)

Doric died of natural causes on May 7, 2011. He was working on two new plays, An Object of Affection and Saints on a Secret Mission.

My Brief Experiences with Doric
My experience of Doric was primarily from 2000-2007 via e-mail, as I attempted to do my job as Purple Circuit article recruiter and editor. I had spent months coaxing him to send us descriptions of his plays, then many more months receiving his wrath when I made editing suggestions to condense or make grammatical corrections to his text.

By now, those who knew Doric would be laughing their heads off, because it is likely they would know he detested anyone meddling with his writing.

In any event, all’s well that ends well, for the Purple Circuit has some of his writings — which you can click to — in the following section.

Doric’s Writing
These are Doric’s descriptions of some of his plays: Doric’s reviews of plays by other writers: Description of some of his gay-content plays are here:

What Doric’s Colleagues Thought of Him

“If you look at Doric Wilson’s work of the last fifty years, you will see that he knows more words than most people and knows how to use them, but 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.”
- Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

“Doric Wilson’s plays are smart, sexy, outrageous and most importantly; tell the truth.”
- Charles Busch, Divine Sister, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife

“Wilson has devoted his life to the once-radical notion that gay lives deserved true representation.”
- Craig Lucas, Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza

“I don’t know if Doric set out to inspire several generations of playwrights, but that has been his role. It is largely due to his model that the custom of Off-Off Broadway became for plays to be independent, audacious, individual, and uncompromising — four words that had rarely been applicable to plays before. Writers in many lands who did not know Doric existed or that he originated this stance took it as rote. His quiet revolution has been reverberatory.”
- Robert Patrick, Kennedy’s Children, T-Shirts

“Doric Wilson is a brilliant playwright, a pioneer in queer theater, and a great guy — it’s just not fair. He deserves a celebration, a parade, and, if there’s any justice, West Street should be renamed Doric Wilson Boulevard. We are all in his debt.”
- Paul Rudnick, Jeffrey, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, In and Out

“Doric Wilson specializes in stylish farce, ironic comedy of wit, and urbane satire … His combination of fantasy and whimsy and his intellectual dialectic suggests the touch of a Giraudoux or a Shaw … Yet underlying his often caustic comedy is surprisingly romantic sensibility.”
- Tish Dace, Contemporary Dramatists

“Doric Wilson first made history at the age of just 22, becoming the first playwright to have new work produced regularly at the now-legendary Caffe Cino, cradle of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway movement. His witty, satirical plays — with their deft combination of mythic content with bluntly down-to-earth staging and characterization — made a virtue of the Cino’s physical and financial limitations, and established a model later imitated by countless others. Doric made history at 22, and has been trying (unsuccessfully) to live it down ever since.”
- Stephen J. Bottoms, Playing Underground, The Theatre of Sam Shepard: States of Crisis

“Doric Wilson was the first playwright produced by Joseph Cino to have a significant career in the professional theater. Wilson’s Street Theater and his A Perfect Relationship have become standards in the American gay theater canon, and Wilson’s own activism on the part of New York gay theater, led to his formation of TOSOS (The Other Side Of Silence) Theater, which is and was America’s first true, proud gay theatre. His play, And He Made A Her... set a model for all of the Cino language plays to follow, and until his falling out with Cino, Wilson was THE Cino playwright and a favorite of Albee’s producer Richard Barr, who at one point considered Doric Wilson to be the next Edward Albee. Doric Wilson’s work, articulate, ornamented, ironic, and biting, became a model for the work which followed. While the Irish may claim Oscar Wilde among their great dramatic poets, America claims Doric Wilson as our Oscar Wilde!”
- David Crespy, Off-Off-Broadway Explosion, He Had to Hock His House: Richard Barr, the Playwrights’ Producer

“A pioneer of the alternative theater movement.”
- Marshall W. Mason, director, author, founder of Circle Rep

“This trailblazer literally changed the trajectory of American Theatre.”
- Bud Coleman, ATHE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Focus Group

“Doric taught me about gay theatre and off off Broadway theatre, without which knowledge I probably would never have had the career in the theatre that I had. He was my mentor, and I will always be indebted to him for that.”
- John Glines, The Glines, producer: Torch Song Trilogy

“Once upon a time, giants walked the earth, known as ‘Grand Men of the Theater.’ There are damned few of them around today, but Doric Wilson undoubtedly ranks as one, for his tireless, effervescent creativity and commitment to both the stage and gay communities. He is a living New York treasure.”
- David Noh, veteran gay journalist, Noh Way

“I admire Doric Wilson for his contributions as a theatre artist and as a social activist, which are immense. But I think I admire him most for his apparently endlessly questing soul and the extraordinary generosity that bursts forth from it every time I see or speak to him. His support of all the independent theater artists who have followed in his pioneering footsteps is inspiring. His welcoming spirit has created an ever-widening community full of talent and energy and amazing karma.”
- Martin Denton, founder/editor,

“Progress toward creating a true gay community and a secure place for that community in the world cannot be won only by political means: it must also be realized by the creation of works of art that reflect the realities of LGBT life. Doric Wilson has been an important pioneer in creating a theater that embraces the humanity of gay people and for this he deserves not only our gratitude but our respect, honor, and affection.”
- David Carter, Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution

“The plays of Doric Wilson are wondrous portals into the heart, soul and mind of our times. They also reveal essential things about the artist himself: his devotion to social equality and justice, his legendary generosity to fellow artists, his deep reserves of historical recall, his appreciation of good jokes. If you love his plays you love the man whether you’ve been lucky enough to meet him or not. A Wilson play is deeply personal regardless of how fanciful or outrageous. It is extravagantly romantic while somehow feeling freshly modern. A Wilson play tells hard truths while eliciting gales of laughter; charms as it secretly radicalizes; incites a quiet audience to be noisy, a noisy audience to be quiet. It entertains, and that is why, beyond considerable historical importance, Doric Wilson’s name will hold a perennial place on theater marquees everywhere.”
- Jonathan Reuning, publisher, United Stages, Inc.

“Being Doric Wilson’s director of choice for that last 10 years has been a privilege and an education. Bringing his plays to life is a distinct and unequaled pleasure. I love watching audiences watch Doric’s plays. His words, wisdom and wickedness are as fresh and resonant today as when audiences first heard them (I imagine) because the response is always electric. In my book that qualifies them as ‘classics.’ I've learned more about making theater through working with him than with anyone I’ve ever known and for that I’ll always be grateful. Plus, he’s really funny!”
- Mark Finley, director, playwright, TOSOS artistic director

“I can’t imagine Doric Wilson resting in peace. Whatever awaits him on the other side of that river that we all must cross someday, I have a feeling it will include unfinished scripts and unbridled humor, and maybe a few shots of brandy.”
- Patricia Nell Warren (from her “Doric Wilson, Theater Great (1939-2011)” article)

“Mr. Wilson was one of the first resident playwrights at the legendary Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village, where many fledgling Off-Off-Broadway playwrights cut their teeth. His comedy And He Made A Her opened there in 1961. Only two years in New York, and not wanting people to think the work was his first produced play, he attended performances in three-piece suits with a trench coat tossed over his shoulders. ‘I also drank brandy and soda,’ he recalled.

“The success of that play and the three that followed, including Pretty People, Babel Babel Little Tower and Now She Dances! — which dealt head-on with the trail of Oscar Wilde — helped establish Joe Cino’s hole-in-the-wall cafe as an offbeat theatre mecca.”

- Robert Simonson, Doric Wilson, Playwright and Gay Activist, Dies at 72 Playbill, May 8, 2011

“Doric was smart. His plays had a kind of classical elegance to them; they were tight in the middle of a lot of druggy mayhem (which we loved also, because when you’re young and living downtown on no money, druggy mayhem is a delight). Druggy mayhem is what takes over after 2am when you’re hanging around Avenue B, having left the old Club Baths, which is now Lucky Cheng’s, a pseudo Chinese club for tourists with drag-queen hostesses. But Doric, who was into leather and S & M way before Giorgio Armani put his money into it, injected rigor and heat into gay theatre. In plays like A Perfect Relationship and Now She Dances, he gave downtown theater an Oscar Wildean tension caught in a cock ring. He was smart, and not at all parochial, like a lot of downtown queer theatre artists were who did a lot of rib nudging because they were speaking directly to us, but no further. So Doric’s plays got done a lot, all over the place — on the West Coast, in Europe. He was always on the precipice of discovering something new — a new take off, a new dive into tomorrow. He was excited by that. He would tell me how disappointed he was looking in the mirror. Getting older was horrible, but that he was getting discovered every day by another generation of queer theatre gourmets, who wanted to eat the stuff just like we did. They wanted to live on it, they wanted to exist in it and not exist without it. He loved them. He was crazy about them: Doric — we’ll miss you, our sweet red-headed prince.”
- Perry Brass, from his “Lost Gay New York: Doric Wilson” blog, May 10, 2011

“Doric was a great man, and great men have great flaws. The man had a temper. And he had a mouth on him, as my mother would say. And he had very firm beliefs about what gay people could expect in the theater, and from society. He did not believe that a straight organization would fund a gay theater (though nobody crowed louder than he did when the Dramatists Guild Fund began to make grants to Chesley/Chambers).

“He also made it clear, when I first knew him, that he saw no need for gays to get married (followed by a dissertation on the Napoleonic Code). Then he realized that many of his friends and many in the next generations of gays who chose to be together in committed relationships didn’t have the same civil rights as married opposite-sex couples. When he realized that marriage equality was a civil rights issue, he got behind it (though never, he reminded us, because HE wanted to marry anyone).”

- Kathleen Warnock, from her “Remembering My Fairy Godfather” blog, May 30, 2011

Doric Wilson’s Major Plays
  • And He Made A Her
    (Caffe Cino, NYC, 1961)
  • Babel Babel Little Tower
    (Caffe Cino, NYC, 1961)
  • Now She Dances!
    (One act version: Caffe Cino, NYC, 1961; full-length version: Flexible Deadlock, Glasgow, Scotland, 2000)
  • Pretty People
    (Caffe Cino, NYC, 1961)
  • Some People Are
    (opera libretto for Walter Torgerson, 1966)
  • In Absence
    (45th Street Playhouse, NYC, 1968)
  • The West Street Gang
    (TOSOS, Spike Bar, NYC, 1977)
  • A Perfect Relationship
    (The Glines, NYC, 1978)
  • Turnabout
    (under pseudonym Howard Aldon) (Richland Players, Washington, 1980)
  • Forever After
    (The First Gay American Arts Festival, NYC, 1980)
  • Street Theater
    (Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco, 1982; Meridian Theater, The Mineshaft, NYC, 1983)

Some of Doric Wilson’s Awards and Honors
  • 1982 - The Villager and the Chambers-Blackwell Best Play citations for Street Theater
  • 1994 - The first Robert Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement in Gay and Lesbian Playwrighting
  • 2002-3 - Off-Off-Broadway Review (OOBR) Award for A Perfect Relationship
  • 2007 - Lambda Award nomination for revival of And He Made a Her
  • 2007 - IT Award (New York Innovative Theatre Award Artistic Achievement Award) for significant artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community
  • 2009 - ATHA (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Career Achievement Award
  • 2009 - Elected a member of the National Theater Conference
  • 2010 - Honorary Golden Pineapple Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by NY Artists Unlimited
  • 2010 - PassionFruit Award for Enduring and Continuing Pioneer Work in LGBT Theater (from the Fresh Fruit Festival)

Where to Get Doric Wilson’s Plays

          Earlier versions of Street Theater, Forever After, and A Perfect Relationship are published by:
                  TNT Classic Books;

          Street Theater is also included in the Don Shewey edited anthology “Out Front” (Grove Press), and is available at:
                  Drama Bookshop

          And He Made a Her (includes CD of original 1961 Caffe Cino performance), Now She Dances!, and Street Theater are available from:
                    United Stages.

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