Remembering OOB Hero Doric Wilson
playwright and activist Doric Wilson – an honorary IT Award recipient – passed
away this month at the age of 72.
Born in Washington State, Wilson began writing plays as a high school student. In 1959, he moved to New York City as an actor. In 1961, though, he hit a career milestone as one of the first resident playwrights at Caffe Cino, with such plays as And He Made A Her, Babel Babel Little Tower, Now She Dances!, and Pretty People. His work helped establish Caffe Cino as a hub in the burgeoning Off-Off-Broadway movement, and Dances! was the first Off-Off play to portray gay people in a positive light. Later, Wilson also became a founding member of Circle Repertory Company.
Wilson’s prowess as a playwright was equaled, if not surpassed, by his work as a gay activist. He was a part of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and was active in the early days of the New York Gay Liberation movement as a member of GAA (Gay Activist Alliance) and managed such downtown bars as The Spike, TY's and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret. A later play, Street Theater, offered a humorous look at those caught up in the Stonewall riots.
More significantly, in 1974, Wilson, along with Billy Blackwell, Peter del Valle and John McSpadden formed TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the first professional theater company to deal openly and honestly with the gay experience. The company featured new plays and revivals by such writers as Noël Coward, Christopher Hampton, Joe Orton, Terrence McNally, and Lanford Wilson. In June 2001, Wilson, with Mark Finley and Barry Childs, remounted it as TOSOS II. The original TOSOS and its production of Doric Wilson's play The West Street Gang are featured in "Perform", the permanent exhibit on theatre at The Museum of New York City.
In 2007, Wilson received the Artistic Achievement Achievement IT Award "in recognition of his visionary artistic contributions and unwavering dedication and character that helped shape the Off-Off-Broadway community." It was presented by Finley.
Wilson’s achievements continue to inspire gay activists and performers as well as those among the Off-Off theater scene. Just earlier this year, Rising Phoenix Repertory launched Cino nights, an ongoing series of performances put on to honor and recapture the spirit of the Caffe Cino scene.
Wilson was right there for the launch.
- Spotlight On: Doric Wilson by Shay Gines - March 21, 2011
- Mentors & Inspirations by Doric Wilson - February 14, 2010
- Doric Wilson Tribute Video including acceptance speech and back stage interview - September 2007
- A Tribute to Doric Wilson by Kathleen Warnock - March 18, 2011
- Robert Patrick Remembers Doric