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Drivas, Robert (1938-1986)  
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The Ritz proved the surprise hit of the season, running 400 performances. McNally later commented that this was possibly the most subversive show he had written inasmuch as it asked largely straight, upper-middle-class audiences to watch the manic goings-on in a gay bathhouse and not only to accept as a given a largely alien way of life, but to care about the characters and their emotional and sexual needs. Drivas's direction kept the farcical action moving at a fast pace and its sexual edge sharply honed. Midway through the run, Drivas succeeded the departing F. Murray Abraham as the sexually irrepressible Chris.

Drivas would win an Obie Award as Best Director for McNally's dark comedy about the American pursuit of faddish psychotherapeutic solutions to one's personal problems, Bad Habits (1974), which starred F. Murray Abraham, Doris Roberts, Paul Benedict, and Cynthia Harris.

He would also direct his close friend James Coco in Albert Innaurato's disturbing portrait of a grossly obese young man who eats himself to death on stage, The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie (1977), and in a revival of the Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Carolyn Leight musical, Little Me (1982). Likewise, he would direct Elizabeth Ashley and F. Murray Abraham in Samuel Taylor's Legend (1976); Lou Jacobi, Jack Weston, and Doris Roberts in Michael Jacobs' Cheaters (1978); Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in their comedy It Had to Be You (1981); and sultry songstress Peggy Lee in her musical biography, Peg (1983).


Drivas died on June 29, 1986 of a combination of AIDS-related complications that included Karposi's Sarcoma. Although Drivas and McNally had ceased to be lovers ten years earlier, they had continued to be close friends.

Following Drivas's death (and that a year later of another close friend, actor James Coco), McNally wrote Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1987) about the human need to connect. "We gotta connect," Johnny implores Frankie, echoing novelist E. M. Forster. "We just have to. Or we die."

In his preface to the published text, McNally wrote: "I still don't quite know where Frankie and Johnny came from. I do know that I began it shortly after I had lost my two best friends and dearest collaborators in the theater, Robert Drivas and James Coco. Friends seemed especially precious and life unbelievably fragile. I had always thought they would be in my personal and professional life forever. . . . I missed Bobby and Jimmy a lot. I still do, I always will, but I missed them less while I was writing Frankie and Johnny."

McNally also quietly memorialized Drivas in his television play Andre's Mother (1988) in which Hal tells his late partner's mother, from whom Andre had been alienated for several years, that "You should have come up the summer he played Hamlet. He was magnificent." Like Andre, Drivas had been particularly effective in the title role of Shakespeare's tragedy in a production at the Shakespeare Festival in Washington, D. C., that had been directed by Philip Burton, the father of actor Richard Burton.

In Andre's Mother, Hal's appropriation of Horatio's line, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" was McNally's moving benediction for all the AIDS dead. But it seems also to have been a private blessing for "my sweet Bobby," the man whom--at numerous fund raisers and political rallies to raise support for AIDS research and for the care of Persons with AIDS at which McNally spoke at the height of the pandemic--he rarely failed to include in the list of those lost to the plague.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Gay Male

Although few gay actors have been permitted the luxury of openness, many of them have challenged and helped reconfigure notions of masculinity and, to a lesser extent, of homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

The musical has been a significant aspect of American gay male culture, manifesting itself both in diva worship and, more recently, in the presentation of openly gay characters and shows written by gay writers primarily for gay audiences.

arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual actors and actresses are among the elite of contemporary theater, but only recently have many come out publicly.

literature >> Albee, Edward

The American dramatist Edward Albee, whose career flourished in the 1960s and then waned as a result of homophobia, wrote plays with gay subtexts in which loving is the ultimate act of violence and violence is the most effective expression of love.

arts >> Barr, Richard

Theatrical producer Richard Barr is most famous for producing the works of Edward Albee, introducing the European Absurdists to Broadway, and presenting the seminal gay drama, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band.

arts >> Coco, James

Quick-witted, roly-poly, sad-eyed clown James Coco proved one of the most versatile and successful American stage, film, and television actors from the late-1960s through the mid-1980s.

arts >> Cornell, Katharine, (1893-1974) and Guthrie McClintic (1893-1961)

Actress Katharine Cornell and director Guthrie McClintic sustained one of the most celebrated partnerships in the American theater for forty years; although married and devoted to each other, both partners pursued same-sex relationships.

arts >> Dean, James

Although he spent only two years in Hollywood before his untimely death, James Dean became an enduring icon of American film, one whose brooding non-conformity helped challenge rigid notions of masculinity.

literature >> Forster, E. M.

One of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century and a tireless defender of humane values, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

arts >> Innaurato, Albert

Playwright Albert Innaurato's plays are as remarkable for the marginalizing ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and body image of their characters as they are for the author's refusal to adopt politically correct attitudes.

arts >> Kert, Larry

Gay actor and singer Larry Kert introduced some of the most memorable songs in American musical theater.

arts >> Mantello, Joe

Having staged a variety of well-received and award-winning productions, actor-turned-director Joe Mantello has emerged as one of the most accomplished artists now working in the American theater.

literature >> McNally, Terrence

Texas-reared Terrence McNally, whose first play, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, was one of the great scandals of the 1964 New York season, emerged in the 1990s as America's most important gay playwright since Tennessee Williams.

literature >> Williams, Tennessee

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.


Gussow, Mel. Edward Albee: A Singular Journey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.

McNally, Terrence. "A Few Words of Introduction." Three Plays by Terrence McNally: The Lisbon Traviata, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and It's Only a Play. New York: Plume, 1990. ix-xiii.

Weaver, Neal. "The Quiet and Scandalous World of Terrence McNally." In Touch 2.1 (Oct. 1974): 34-37, 77-79.


    Citation Information
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: Drivas, Robert  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2013  
    Date Last Updated February 5, 2013  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  


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