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In Memoriam: Doric Wilson

An older and younger Doric Wilson

On May 7, 2011, at the age of 72, Doric Wilson passed away, bestowing immense sadness on the Village and beyond. Doric was a rare gem who wore many hats, tipping them successfully with each role he played.  One of the original pioneers of Off-Off-Broadway, Mr. Wilson was a playwright, director, producer, designer, critic, and resident of the Village.  He created over 100 productions in his lifetime, getting his start as one of the first resident playwrights at the legendary Caffe Cino, located at 21 Cornelia Street, where he first debuted his comedy And He Made A Her in 1961.  Other memorable productions of his that premiered at Caffe Cino were Now She Dances! (which looked at the life of Oscar Wilde), Pretty People, and Babel Babel Little Tower. The success of these shows is often attributed to the launch of Caffe Cino as the birthplace of Off-Off Broadway, a type of alternative theater that has characterized the Village for decades.  Wilson went on to become a founding member of the Circle Repertory Company and one of the first playwrights invited to join the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit.

left: Caffe Cino’s storefront during its heyday, right: The storefront in 1966

Logo for a 2007 revival production of And He Made A Her put on by TOSAS II

Born on February 24, 1939, Doric Wilson will also be remembered as a strong voice for the New York Gay Liberation Movement. Participating in all three nights of the Stonewall Riot (he is even featured in the 2010 documentary Stonewall Uprising), he was never afraid to voice his beliefs, a trait that was further apparent in his advocacy for civil-rights and the anti-Vietnam-War movement.  A member of GAA (Gay Activist Alliance), he opened the famed Village gay bars Spike, TY’s, and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret.  And He Made A Her was the first Off-Off Broadway show to shed positive light on LGBT culture and in 1974 Wilson became a co-founder of TOSAS (The Other Side of Silence), a professional theater company that was the first to openly support and spotlight the gay experience.  The plays put on through this theater company became world-renowned, award-winning, and symbolic of the gay rights movement.  In 2001, the company was resurrected as TOSAS II and is still a working theater company.  Doric was also one of many prominent playwrights to join GVSHP in opposing NYU’s plans for demolition of the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments.

Doric’s legacy taught us not only to stand up for our beliefs, but also that local arts are an essential component of a healthy and vibrant community.  He will be greatly missed.

4 responses to “In Memoriam: Doric Wilson

  1. Actually your second photo above is not of the Cino today. It is from 1966. It and the colored photo are both by photographer James D. Gossage. Here is a photo of the Cino today, by me. It is now an Italian restaurant. This photo shows Doric Wilson (in red), other Cino playwrights Bob Heide (in gray), Lanford Wilson (in pink), Wiliam M. Hoffman (in blue), and Claris Nelson (in blue floral shirt). The blond man in glasses is director Marshall W. Mason, the blond man in white is actor John Gilman. The three people with bags are personnel for a TV special about the Cino. http://screencast.com/t/D7Jkg67O

  2. Actually the address, is 31 Cornelia Street, I know this because my nana, was the owner of the building at that time, Josie Lemma.

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