Lanford Wilson was an American playwright who helped to advance the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement, producing his earliest plays in New York at the Caffe Cino in 1964. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980 and was elected in 2001 to the Theater Hall of Fame. In 2004, Wilson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a Master American Dramatist. He was nominated for three Tony Awards and has won a Drama Desk Award and an Obie Award.
Wilson was raised in Missouri by his mother, but in 1956 he moved to California, where he worked and attended college. There, Wilson lived with his father, who did not accept Wilson's homosexuality, and so, in 1957, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a graphic artist and studied playwriting. In 1962, he moved to New York and began to write plays for Off-Off-Broadway theatres. His 1964 short play, The Madness of Lady Bright, was his first significant success and led to further works treating gay identity and other social and romantic issues throughout the 1960s. In 1969, he was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Company, for whom he wrote many plays in the 1970s. His 1973 play, The Hot L Baltimore, was the company's first major hit with both audiences and critics; its Off-Broadway run exceeded 1,000 performances.