Skip to main content

Wilson, Lanford

Lanford Wilson, 1937–2011, American playwright, b. Lebanon, Mo. An important figure in modern drama, he was a master of earthy, realistic dialogue in which monologue, conversation, and direct address to the audience overlap. Frequent themes include decay, dissolution, loneliness, and loss, and he addresses such issues as American conformity, family conflicts, and the plight of social outcasts, whom he characterized with empathy and understanding. Wilson, who was gay, also was one of the first playwrights to realistically portray gay and lesbian characters.

Wilson settled in New York City in 1962 and soon became part of the "off-off-Broadway" movement, producing such one-act plays as So Long at the Fair (1963) and Home Free! (1964). He graduated to off-Broadway with the production of his first full-length play, Balm in Gilead (1964), and moved to Broadway with The Gingham Dog (1968). In 1969 he cofounded the Circle Repertory Theatre in Greenwich Village, where, until its closing (1996), many of his plays were performed. Among these were the extremely successful The Hot l Baltimore (1972) and an acclaimed trilogy—Fifth of July (1978), Talley's Folly (1980, Pulitzer Prize), and A Tale Told (1981)—plays set in Wilson's hometown that span several decades. His later dramas include Angels Fall (1982), Burn This (1987), Redwood Curtain (1993), Book of Days (1998), and Rain Dance (2002).

See G. A. Barnett, Lanford Wilson (1987); M. Busby, Lanford Wilson (1987); P. M. Williams, A Comfortable House: Lanford Wilson, Marshall W. Mason, and the Circle Repertory Theatre (1993); J. R. Bryer, ed., Lanford Wilson: A Casebook (1994); A. Dean, Discovery and Invention: The Urban Plays of Lanford Wilson (1994).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Wilson, Lanford." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Wilson, Lanford." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (July 16, 2018).

"Wilson, Lanford." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 16, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.