BAMMER member Brian Hutchison can be seen in The Boys in the Band, on Netflix, starting Sept 30. We asked Brian to share a few words about being in the show. The Boys in the Band is an important part of LGBT history, and this latest production is truly stunning.
I first watched the original 1970 version of the movie The Boys in The Band film in the early 1990s. I was in my early thirties then and it was brutal—I’m not even sure I made it the whole way through. My immediate impression was that it felt so sad, so bleak, so unlike my life up to that point. I wasn’t ready for it. I was only able to understand or relate to a couple of the characters: Hank, who had left his wife a few years earlier, and Alan, who was married but clearly troubled and conflicted.
Playing Alan in The Boys in the Band on Broadway was an amazing experience. I know what that pain is, the confusion, the fear. My initial reaction to seeing the original film had been so dark that I kept it at arm’s length. But now, comfortable with my life and career, my sexuality, and happily married to another man, I felt so much freedom in exploring what this character was about, his humanity.
The play was charmed from the start. Rehearsal was a blast, working closely with all the cast members and “falling in love” with them in the way that happens in the best of theatrical experiences. Unexpectedly, I discovered a common ground, working with a cast of all gay men, unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my career—there was a lack of filter and, though we all grew up under vastly different circumstances, we all had similar reference points. There was joy, love, kindness, support, empathy and a decided lack of ego, knowing we all wanted the play to succeed. And, then, there was the understanding in a play like this with so many strong characters, that we all got our moments, then passed the baton, and on and on. In the best circumstances as an actor, you feel when something is good, but it was clear here that we were creating something really unique and special.
The move into the theater was quick and, after a few days of tech (adding lighting, sound, the set, and costumes), the show was ready to begin previews. There were so many memorable moments that first night. From our dressing room hallway, we listened over the monitor. Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer opened the show and immediately we heard the rolling laughter—the audience was going nuts. The laughter continued from there. The audience sat transfixed throughout the entire performance. And, while we reminded ourselves that first-night audiences were maybe not the most honest barometer, it was clear the next night and from the performances that followed that our audiences were ready for this—to watch a play that represented a world and a time when being gay wasn’t accepted and when people couldn’t live their lives honestly, or if they did, were fearful of losing their families, friends, and livelihood.
When Ryan Murphy decided to produce the film adaptation for Netflix, we all were really excited to do it. Not only would we get to hang out again for a few months, but the film would be seen internationally, bringing the story to a far wider audience, most of whom wouldn’t be familiar with the original film.
The film, as with the play, feels different from what I remember from the original film version of The Boys in the Band. The script is mostly identical to the original, but it seems more poignant. The relationships feel really deep and loving despite the vitriol. We see the love underneath and the desire for connection. The viewer no longer has to see this as the single representation of gay life, but rather as a benchmark of an era about to undergo cultural liberation. When the play first opened in 1968, ticket buyers shielded their faces leaving the box office at the theater. The same was true for the film’s release in 1970. It was a secret curiosity for so many men to see their lives (or, in many cases, the lives they couldn’t bring themselves to lead) represented on stage and in film.
Viewing the film now, post-gay liberation and post-marriage equality; seeing our community grow to support other sexual and gender identities, we can view this film not with fear for what we might become, as men in 1970 did, but as a measure of how far society has come since the show was first produced. The Boys in the Band had a role in bringing about these changes. Today, there is a pride and an ownership that people feel in seeing their history represented in this way.
Shortly after the original play opened in 1969, the Stonewall riots erupted, giving rise to the gay rights movement, followed a decade later by the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. A heroic response to the AIDS outbreak by gay men, lesbians, and their allies was the catalyst for the LGBTQ community’s fight for and eventual victory in winning its civil rights. This chain of events empowered all of us to live more fulfilling authentic lives.
Today, fascism, bigotry, and hate threaten to undermine all we’ve achieved in promoting equal civil rights across the country, not just for LGBT people, but for people of color and different ethnicities, too. There is a famous line in the script that, for me, encapsulates so much of what has changed since the play was first produced, and what Boys In The Band helped depict by providing audiences with an early window into LGBTQ lives: “If we could only learn to not hate ourselves so very much.”
Hopefully, the film will spread a message of acceptance across our country, or globally, and we can understand more about our history and the direction we need to be headed.