Playwright Robert Patrick, who some called “the Godfather of Gay Theater”, has died.
Friends on social media have been mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Patrick, a life that affected many in the theater world as well as audiences around the world.
Here’s a brief list his many accomplishments;
- In 1961 Patrick stopped off in NYC and happened upon the Caffe Cino, the first Off-Off Broadway theatre and stayed.
- In 1964 wrote his first play, The Haunted Host, produced by Caffe Cino, and playwriting became his main goal.
- Patrick directed productions of his own plays, The Richest Girl in the World Finds Happiness, Valentine Rainbow and The Golden Circle.
- In 1973, Patrick’s Kennedy’s Children opening in the back of a London pub was instantly successful and was signed for a West End productions. It earned Shirley Knight a Tony in ’76 for Best Actress in a play and she later reprised her role in the ’79 CBS TV production.
- A 1974 Boston production of The Haunted Host was the first time Harvey Fierstein appeared on the professional stage (as a man).
- In 1976, Marlo Thomas commissioned Patrick to write My Cup Ranneth Over for her and Lily Tomlin. Although they never performed in it, it would become Patrick’s most produced work.
- T-Shirts was first produced in 1979, starring porn star Jack Wrangler, and was later chosen as the opening piece in the anthology Gay Plays: A First Collection.
- Untold Decades from ’88 are seven one-act plays giving a humorous and emotional history of gay life in America
- Temple Slave, a novel about the early days of Off-Off-Broadway and gay theatre.
- Patrick appeared in the documentaries Resident Alien, with Quentin Crisp, and Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, and in the videos O is for Orgy: The Sequel and O Boys: Parties, Porn, and Politics.
- Patrick later published his memoir Film Moi or Narcissus in the Dark and the plays Hollywood at Sunset and Michelangelo’s Models.
- In 2010, he produced a DVD of his lecture Caffe Cino: Birthplace of Gay Theatre.
- In March 2014, he gave a solo performance about his career entitled, What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes a Great Story Later, which featured accapella renditions of many of his original songs. (*see below)
Darren Patrick interviewed Robert in 2008 who said of the early days,
Although the very concept of gay liberation was unborn for most ‘media monsters’ like me, a few novels found on paperback shelves in provincial drugstores, plus usually derogatory cracks about effeminate or neurotic gay men and butch or pretentious Lesbians tossed into stories or movies about Greenwich Village, did hint that along with creative freedom (and sensitive, intellectual company), the Village might offer some relief from the incessant fear of recognition, discovery, and punishment that gayness brought to outlander inverts.
We hardly expected more than a place to hide. I was a southwestern art fairy, and gays outside major cities had to live totally underground lives back then. People in more remote parts of the country were vaguely aware of the gay culture in New York City, but in an extremely negative way.
We couldn’t just log on to the internet or turn on the television to find representations of ourselves, we had to triangulate and hypothesize from half-hints and casual deprecatory remarks by New York writers about Greenwich Village parties and coffee-houses that within an only half-discerned arty Bohemian environment there might possibly be a little more acceptance of homosexuals.
The Cino fulfilled the dream of a Bohemian enclave, and at the same time startled with its undreamed-of possibility of gay fraternity as well.”
He retired from theatre in 1990, and lived in LA for the last 30 years. They were not all happy years, apparently, but the show must go on, even when you’re off-stage.
His friend Tim Cain wrote after Partrick’s passing,
In 2009, Mr. Robert and I wrote to each other a bit. I commented that it took courage to do all he had- some would applaud him and some would wish him harm. Here is his poetic reply, a fitting epitaph…
Robert Patrick was 85.
Patrick’s last post on Facebook was about the current Mercury in Retrograde, and his song…
(Photo, Jason Jenn)