After Martin Sherman granted The New York Times an interview about his 1979 play, “Bent,” a groundbreaking drama that for the first time spotlighted the Nazi persecution of gays onstage, the Times reporter phoned Sherman three separate times to confirm whether the author truly wanted to admit, in print, that he was gay.
“Nobody was ‘out’ in those days,” the soft-spoken Sherman, 76, said in a telephone interview from his London home. “But I told the journalist I couldn’t have written this play and then have him write about my [straight] bachelor digs. That level of hypocrisy would’ve been against everything that the play is about, and everything that I was about. There was no way I could not talk about being gay.”
“Bent” went on to be nominated for a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, and helped to make a star of Richard Gere on Broadway. It has been staged in dozens of productions throughout the world and was adapted into a 1997 film starring Mick Jagger, as well as a ballet in Brazil. Along the way, it not only raised awareness of the Nazis’ gay purge but also paved the way for subsequent gay-themed plays, such as “La Cage aux Folles,” “The Normal Heart” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Now, “Bent” will open in its first production at the Mark Taper Forum on July 26 (previews begin July 15), directed by Moises Kaufman (“The Laramie Project”), in what is also the drama’s first prominent staging in Los Angeles in more than a quarter-century.