The Kennedy Center

Frank Gilroy


Frank Gilroy, a contemporary dramatist, was born in New York City on October 13, 1925. He attended high school in the Bronx, and later graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College. Gilroy attended Yale University School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut from 1950 to 1951.

Known for his bittersweet comedies about men, their alienation and loneliness, their difficulty communicating with and understanding women, and male insecurities in interacting with each other, Gilroy's first commercially successful play, Who'll Save the Plowboy? is a about three characters whose lives deal with frustration, failure and an inability to communicate honestly. His trademark script contains short, snappy repartee, one-liner insights, and quick expressions of anger and bitterness.

Gilroy won the Pulitzer Prize for The Subject Was Roses which is an example of his style and themes. The play concentrates not on complex set of emotions, but on situations to detract from exposing his characters' inner selves in which they divide rather than unite their emotions. In this play about the strained relationship between a young veteran and his parents, the World War II experiences of the veteran are a backdrop for the parents to use him to shoot each other down. The eventual disavowal of any responsibility for the mess in their lives is a very common theme in Gilroy's characters.

After winning a Pulitzer Prize, Gilroy felt pressure to meet expectations. His next play, That Summer - That Fall, was a disastrous play that had only 12 performances. The theme of the play had Greeks Phaedra and Hippolytus marrying and becoming modern characters living in Manhattan. The failure of the play, Gilroy felt, lifted the burden of being a Pulitzer Prize playwright and gave him the freedom to return to his own drama themes and style.

Gilroy began to produce one-act plays in which he could concentrate on the power of his simple, descriptive style by taking an incident and rapidly setting time, mood and place. In The Next Contestant he shows manipulation, deceit and disillusionment when the engaged character calls up an ex-girlfriend to ask her for a date. In Last Licks he presents a triangular relationship involving deception, emotional and physical sadism, drinking bouts and tales of extramarital affairs. As with many of his plays, they are frequently comical, but more often involve painful skirmishes between the sexes with the primary sympathy going toward the men's involvement with the world and with one another.

Gilroy won the Obie award in 1962, the Outer Circle award in 1964, New York Drama Critics Circle award in 1965, and the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear in 1972.
Frank Gilroy