Lanford Wilson (born 13 April 1937) is an American playwright, considered one of the founders of the Off-off Broadway theater movement. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980, was elected in 2001 to the Theater Hall of Fame, and in 2004 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Wilson was born to Ralph Eugene and Violetta Tate Wilson in Lebanon, Missouri. After the divorce of his parents, he moved with his mother to Springfield, until she remarried and when he was eleven and they moved again to Ozark. There he attended high school, and upon graduation, he moved San Diego, California to live with his father, where he briefly attended San Diego State University. He then lived for six years in Chicago, where he began to explore play writing at the University of Chicago.
Wilson began his active career as a playwright in the early 1960s at the Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village, writing one-act plays such as Ludlow Fair, Home Free!, and The Madness of Lady Bright. The Madness of Lady Bright premiered at the Caffe Cino in May 1964 and was the venue's first significant hit. The play featured actor Neil Flanagan in the title role as Leslie Bright, a neurotic aging queen. The Madness of Lady Bright is considered a landmark play in the representation of male homosexuality. It was the longest running play ever to appear at the Caffe Cino, where it was performed over two hundred times. Wilson was subsequently invited to present his work off-Broadway, including his plays Balm in Gilead and The Rimers of Eldritch produced at Cafe LaMama.
Wilson is a founding member of New York State Summer School of the Arts.
Wilson was a founding member of the Circle Repertory Company in 1969. Many of his plays were first presented there, directed by his long-standing collaborative partner, Marshall W. Mason. The Circle Rep's production of Wilson's The Hot l Baltimore won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Obie Award, and in 1979 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Talley's Folly.
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