Patrick was born to migrant workers in Texas. Because his parents moved around the southwest constantly, looking for work, he never went to one school for an entire year until his senior year of high school in Roswell, New Mexico. The only cultural constants in his life were books, movies, and radio. His mother made sure he learned to read, and arranged that he start school a year early. Unsocialized due to constant displacement, he always made poor grades, and dropped out of college after two years. Having experienced no live theatre but a few school shows, he fell in love with stage work while washing dishes at the Kennebunkport Playhouse one summer. Stopping off in New York on his way back to Roswell, he stumbled into the Caffe Cino, the first underground or Off-Off Broadway theatre, on September 14, 1961. He remained there working for free in any required capacity, supporting himself with temporary typing jobs while observing and participating in the production of dozens of plays. Having long been a poet, in 1964 he got an idea for a play, "The Haunted Host," and because of the casualness of the Cino, was allowed to mount it almost at once. It was something of a success, and playwrighting became his main focus.
His first play, The Haunted Host, was produced in 1964 and premiered at the Caffe Cino in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, New York. Because Patrick refused the offer of Neil Flanagan, the Caffe Cino's star performer, to play the title role (because Flanagan had recently played Lanford Wilson's gay character, Lady Bright) Patrick himself wound up appearing in the play with fellow playwright William M. Hoffman.
Robert Patrick and Bette Bourne at Phebe's, 1988, by Robert Giard
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)During the 1960s Patrick was a pioneer in Off-Off-Broadway theatre and the gay-theatre movement with over 300 productions of his plays during this decade in New York City alone. In 1972, the play publishing and licensing company Samuel French called Patrick "New York's Most-Produced Playwright."
In 1969, he won the "Show Business" Award for Joyce Dynel, Salvation Army, and Fog. That same year his play, Camera Obscura was produced on PBS starring Marge Champion and was also chosen to be in the all-star-playwright revue, "Collision Course."
In 1973, Patrick's Kennedy's Children opened obscurely in London in the back room of a pub, and instantly was signed for the West End and productions worldwide.
A 1974 production of The Haunted Host marked the first time Harvey Fierstein appeared on the legitimate stage as a male (having previously only acted as a drag performer). Years later, Fierstein included a recording of Patrick's monologue, Pouf Positive on his compact disc, This Is Not Going to Be Pretty. Pouf Positive was also filmed by Dov Hechtman in 1989.
1974 was also the first season of gay theatre in the United Kingdom, to which Patrick contributed three plays.
The Broadway-theatre production of his Kennedy's Children (1975) earned Shirley Knight a 1976 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. She repeated her role in the 1979 CBS-Cable TV production of the play.
Patrick traveled widely, from Anchorage to Cape Town, seeing productions of Kennedy's Children. For ten years, he visited high schools and high-school-theatre conventions nationwide on behalf of the The International Thespian Society.
My Cup Ranneth Over (1976) was commissioned by Marlo Thomas as a vehicle for her and Lily Tomlin. Although a production with them never happened, the play went on to become Patrick's most produced.
T-Shirts, first produced in 1979 and starring Jack Wrangler, was later chosen as the opening piece for Hoffman's anthology Gay Plays: A First Collection.
Blue Is For Boys was the first play about gay teenagers, and "Blue is for Boys Weekends" in honor of the play were declared by Manhattan Borough Presidents in 1983 and 1986.
The Trial of Socrates was the first gay play presented by New York City.
Hello Bob, an account of Patrick's experiences with the production of Kennedy's Children, was the last play he directed before leaving New York City.
Other works by Patrick include Untold Decades (1988), a history of gay-male life in the United States, told in a humorous vein; and Temple Slave, a "totally romanticized" novel about the early days of Off-Off Broadway and gay theatre.
He has also ghostwritten several screenplays for film and television; contributed poems and reviews to Playbill, FirstHand, and Adult Video News magazines; and had his short stories included in numerous anthologies.
Additionally, Patrick has appeared in the documentaries, Resident Alien (1990) (with Quentin Crisp) and Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon (2008); and in the videos: O is for Orgy: The Sequel and O Boys: Parties, Porn, and Politics, both produced by the O Boys Network.
Most recently, he has written his memoirs, Film Moi or Narcissus in the Dark, and the plays: Hollywood at Sunset and Michelangelo's Models.
He reviews adult gay-male videos for several publications and maintains 70 pages of photographs at Caffe Cino Pictures.
He retired from theatre in 1990, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1993.
In 2010 he published a DVD of his lecture, Caffe Cino: Birthplace of Gay Theatre. and two books of poems, "A Strain of Laughter" and "Bitter with the Sweet" with Lulu.Com.
Caffe Cino: The Birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway (Theater in the Americas) by Wendell C. Stone
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (June 8, 2005)
Amazon: Caffe Cino: The Birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway
“It’s Magic Time!” That colorful promise began each performance at the Caffe Cino, the storied Greenwich Village coffeehouse that fostered the gay and alternative theatre movements of the 1960s and launched the careers of such stage mainstays as Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Robert Heide, Harry Koutoukas, Robert Patrick, Robert Dahdah, Helen Hanft, Al Pacino, and Bernadette Peters. As Off-Off-Broadway productions enjoy a deserved resurgence, theatre historian and actor Wendell C. Stone reopens the Cino’s doors in this vibrant look at the earliest days of OOB.
Rife with insider interviews and rich with evocative photographs, Caffe Cino: The Birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway provides the first detailed account of Joe Cino’s iconic café theatre and its influence on American theatre. A hub of artistic innovation and haven for bohemians, beats, hippies, and gays, the café gave a much-sought outlet to voices otherwise shunned by mainstream entertainment. The Cino’s square stage measured only eight feet, but the dynamic ideas that emerged there spawned the numerous alternative theatre spaces that owe their origins to the risky enterprise on Cornelia Street.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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