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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 19
Doric Wilson, noted playwright and Gay activist, dies at 72
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Doric Wilson, noted playwright and Gay activist, dies at 72

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer Doric Wilson, one of the founding fathers of New York's Off-Off-Broadway scene, anti-war activist, Stonewall rioter, and champion of Gay rights, died May 7. He was 72.

Born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1939, and raised on his grandfather's ranch at Plymouth, Washington, Wilson studied drama briefly at the University of Washington and apprenticed with the Richland Players in eastern Washington.

He moved to New York in 1959, where he had a brief career as an actor before turning to playwriting.

Wilson was one of the first resident playwrights at the legendary Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village where his comedy And He Made A Her opened in 1961.

The success of that play and the three that followed - Pretty People, Babel Babel Little Tower, and Now She Dances! - helped establish Joe Cino's hole-in-the-wall cafe as a theatrical powerhouse.

Later in the 1960s, Wilson was one of the first playwrights invited to join the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright's Unit. With fellow Cino alum Lanford Wilson (1937-2011) he also joined Circle Repertory Theatre.

Well-known Doric Wilson plays from the Circle Rep period include In Absence, Turnabout, The West Street Gang, A Perfect Relationship, and Forever After.

Wilson was on the scene on June 28, 1969, when the famous riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

Already an active participant in the anti-war and civil rights movements, Wilson joined Sylvia Rivera's Gay Activist Alliance.

Later, as a 'star' bartender, he helped open post-Stonewall Gay bars like the Spike, TY's and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret.

In 1974, along with Billy Blackwell, Peter del Valle, and John McSpadden, Wilson formed TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the first professional theater company to deal openly and honestly with the Gay experience.

The company produced both original plays and revivals by Noel Coward, Joe Orton, Terrence McNally, and Lanford Wilson.

'I was involved with Circle Rep at the time,' Wilson later recalled, '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.'

In June 2001 Wilson and directors Mark Finley and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II.

In 2004, Wilson was selected as one of the grand marshals of the 35th Anniversary Pride Day Parade in New York City. He was also featured in the documentary film Stonewall Uprising (2010).

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