Crayton Robey
Crayton Robey
When young Crayton Robey first arrived in New York back in the late 1990's, Making the Boys, his acclaimed documentary about Mart Crowley's 1968 play, The Boys in the Band -- which receives a theatrical release on March 11 -- was the furthest thing from his mind. He was here to act! And while he did co-star in the film Divided We Fall and on the teen series, Ghostwriter, among other projects, Robey eventually turned to filmmaking.

It was actually weekend trips to The Pines in Fire Island -- the now-famous gay enclave -- that would eventually provide Robey with not one but two documentary subjects. "I couldn't believe my good fortune when I was first invited by friends to this wonderful place with all these amazing people who also had these fantastic lives in the city," he recalls. "They kind of introduced me to the history of both The Pines and its gay lifestyle as well as how to survive in the arts world."

His overwhelming desire to document the history of this fabled community resulted in his 2003 documentary, When Ocean Meets Sky, which was originally shown on LOGO-TV. And because of that film, Robey was eventually invited to the Tribeca Institute, which helped him develop Making the Boys. Having interviewed Crowley for When Ocean Meets Sky, Robey decided to focus his second film on the playwright and his landmark play.

"I called Mart, who was living out in Los Angeles," says Robey. "He's such a sweet little guy and a real Southern gentleman. I said, 'Tell me all about The Boys in the Band -- and in that wonderful slow drawl of his, he said, 'You really want to know? I'll give you the crash course.' And he did. He was so cool, I was hooked."

A scene from the film version of The Boys in the Band
A scene from the film version of The Boys in the Band
But it wasn't just Crowley's personality that gave the film its impetus. "What I want people to remember is how important The Boys in the Band is historically," Robey explains. "What it meant to young gay and straight men and women at the time, as well as to know about Mart himself. What an arc his story has, from being 'the toast of the town' then to today, when some people don't even know who he is. It's imperative that we pay attention to and respect those who came before. We take so many things for granted in that rush for our 15 minutes of fame!"

Robey's enormous list of "talking heads" in the film includes a remarkable cross-section of people, including actors Laurence Luckinbill (Hank) and Peter White (Alan); Oscar winner William Friedkin, who directed the film version; George Rondo, the longtime companion of original stage director Robert Moore; playwrights Edward Albee, Larry Kramer, Terrence McNally, Tony Kushner, and Paul Rudnick; and openly gay actor Cheyenne Jackson, all of whom discuss what the play has meant to them, both positively and negatively.

"Mart never interfered with anyone's commentary," says Robey. "Rather, he kept asking me, 'Did you think of this? He was always digging deeper."