What's New on the Rialto
Interview with Crayton Robey
Making the Boys
Nick Orlando recently spoke with Robey about the documentary, as the film premiered in New York City on Friday, March 11th.
Nick Orlando: How did you decide to do this documentary? Were you prompted by a specific event?
Clayton Robey: I was a teenager in Houston when I first came into contact with Mart Crowley's play. I was questioning my sexual identity, hanging out with my best friendwho was going to be my boyfriend, but I didn't know it at the time. I was telling him that, when I kissed my girlfriend, there were no fireworks. So he grabbed me and kissed meand I felt fireworks.
As it happened, one of my teachers caught us and called us both into his office. He asked, "Do you know why you're here"? And I said, "Boys are not suppose to kiss each other. Please don't tell our parents." He said, "You don't get it." He then pulled out two copies of The Boys in the Band, which I'd never heard of, and told us to read it and that we would discuss it the next week. I read it and I loved itand Victor, my boyfriend, hated it.
A little more than a decade later, when I was making When Ocean Meets Sky, a documentary about the historical, cultural and social evolution of Fire Island Pines, I learned that Mart wrote a portion of The Boys in the Band there. When I interviewed him for the Fire Island documentary, we had an instant connection. I asked a few questions about The Boys in the Band and Mart gave me a 10-minute recap about the creation and impact of the play and his life. When he was done, I was captivated to do a documentary about it. I thought, "We need to know this"!
NO: Did you see the original play?
CR: I had seen the movie directed by William Friedkin and the 2008 newly re-mastered DVD. The first time I saw the play performed live was in February 2010. It was fantastic. I had returned from New York for the world premiere of Making the Boys and caught the Transport Group's revival. I had been immersed with The Boys in the Band since 2004 but have not seen a mounted stage production. I was eager to see what The Transport group would deliver because I had seen great work from them. And wow! I have to tell you Jack Cummings directed an exceptional production. Everything just worked and felt fresh. The cast was compelling and brought their characters to life with truth and authenticity. But the star ingredient was Mart Crowley's phenomenal script. It was funny, poignant and relevant; a wonderful night in the theater.
NO: What do you hope the audience will get out of this documentary?
CR: I am honored to share this neglected history. My highest wish is for the audience to have a strong understanding of the bravery of this watershed moment in which The Boys in the Band brought homosexuality out of the closet into mainstream society and conversation in the United States. This was the moment when homosexuality went from being invisible to visible, marking the defining coming out moment in America.
NO: How did the cast become involved?
CR: Wow. I knew this was a groundbreaking moment and it was my responsibility to feature testimony from America's best to add value that summons people to really pay attention. When I contacted my storytellers they responded, "Absolutely, I must be a part of this"! The difficult part was scheduling.
NO: Who were you most excited to work with?
CR: Just everyone really. I have so much respect and admiration for them all. Their insight and support to the narrative of Making the Boys is monumental as well as their respect for Mart Crowley and the significance of The Boys in the Band. What a wonderful, passionate, brilliant group of men.
Edward Albee, William Friedkin, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally, Dominick Dunne, Cheyenne Jackson, Carson Kressley, Robert Wagner, Michael Cunningham, Paul Rudnick, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Andy Tobias, Gilbert Parker, Peter Harvey, Laurence Luckinbill, Peter White, Larry Kramer, Michael Musto, Christian Siriano, Patrick Pacheco and Dan Savage. These guys are phenomenal men and highly celebrated in their industry.
Most, in many ways, were beneficiaries of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band. Also, when my Executive Producer, Academy Award-winner Bill Condon, joined our team, it made people pay attention to the message.
NO: There is some old interview footage of Robert La Tourneaux. Where was all this footage found?
NO: What do you consider to be your greatest find?
CR: It takes a village! My entire team has been extraordinary and supportive. Everyone loves Mart, and values the story and understands the complexities of the moment. I did not find them over night.
Once I received permission from Mart to tell this story, I searched to find the perfect producing partner. I approached several prominent production companies who were producers of gay content and the timing was not right. I looked for three years. I then got a break when Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and their team at the Tribeca Film Institute invited me to participate in the All Access Program, and it was there I connected to my producing partners Douglas Tirola and Susan Bedusa of 4th Row Films. In collaborating with 4th Row Films, I found a space to explore and pursue the film I wanted, allowing a broader and more substantive film to emerge, something other production companies seemed to be missing. By overcoming the obstacles of finding the right connection, our partnership formed instinctively and we set out to archive the story together.
Key to the documentary's success was being able to interview William Friedkin, the director of the film version. I pursued this interview for three years and finally reached Mr. Friedkin and convinced him of the need and importance of him telling his story to the documentary. My passion for the work gave Mr. Friedkin a renewed interest allowing the film to become instantly richer and stronger.
NO: What did you learn that surprised you the most?
CR: I was surprised that when I heard that Robert La Tourneaux who plays Cowboy became a hustler later in life when he could not find work as an actor. He became addicted to drugs, was arrested, sent to Rikers Island and was one of the first to be diagnosed with AIDS. When he was ill, Cliff Gorman, who played Emory, and his wife Gail took care of him.
NO: Has anyone found the actor who played Bernard? His name is Reuben Greene. As of the reading, no one seemed to know anything about him.
CR: Not yet. We have looked everywhere for him and thus far have been unsuccessful in our attempts. Mr. Reuben Greene, where are you, sir? We would love to speak with you.
Nick was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, NY, where he completed his studies. He received his B.S. in communications and marketing from St. John's University in 2005, where he was also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Nick considers traveling, theater, music and working out his favorite leisure activities. Nick currently devotes some of his personal time to volunteering with One Brick and God's Love We Deliver.
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