Playwright Lanford Wilson Dies

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 24 2011 6:15 PM ET

Acclaimed gay playwright Lanford Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Fifth of July, Burn This, and many other works, died Thursday morning at age 73, website Broadway World reports.

Wilson was one of the founders of off-off-Broadway theater, beginning his career in the early 1960s with one-act plays produced at Caffe Cino, a venue for new and experimental works in New York’s Greenwich Village. In 1964 his play The Madness of Lady Bright became Caffe Cino’s first major hit.

In 1969 he helped found the Circle Repertory Company, which in 1973 presented The Hot L Baltimore, Wilson’s play about the denizens of a seedy hotel. The production won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Obie Award.

He went on to have several Broadway successes, including Talley’s Folly, part of his trilogy about a Missouri family, which won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980. The first play in the trilogy was Talley & Son; the third was Fifth of July, centering on a group of friends who came of age in the 1960s, including gay, disabled Vietnam veteran Ken Talley Jr. and his lover, Jed Jenkins. It brought Wilson a Tony nomination for Best Play in 1981, one of three Tony nominations he received.

In 1987 he had another gay-inclusive Broadway hit with Burn This, about the effects of a gay man’s accidental death on the people in his life. A revival of the play opened this week at Los Angeles’s Mark Taper Forum.