217 BOXES OF DR. HENRY ANONYMOUS

I am homosexual, I am a psychiatrist. I, like most of you in this room, am a member of the [American Psychiatric Association] and am proud of that membership. However, tonight, I am insofar as it is possible, a we.— Dr. John E. Fryer, aka Dr. Henry Anonymous

So began Dr. Fryer’s 1972 speech at the APA convention in Dallas. Wearing a rubber mask and speaking through a voice-altering device, Fryer anonymously addressed a panel titled Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to the Homosexual? A Dialogue.

(Since 1952, the APA had classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disorder”—a diagnosis, paradoxically, welcomed at the time by many in the gay community, who saw it as a step up from the then prevailing view of queerness as a criminal perversion.)

Dr. Fryer was convinced he needed his disguise to keep medical license, but his courageous speech struck the convention like a bolt of lightening, and the following year the APA removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Writer-director Ain Gordon went through Dr. Fryer’s personal papers to create 217 BOXES OF DR. HENRY ANONYMOUS, onstage this weekend at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse. This conceptual theater piece focuses on three people in Dr. Fryer’s life: his secretary Katherine M. Luder (played by Laura Esterman), his father Ercel Fryer (Ken Marks), and one of his patients, Alfred A. Gross (Derek Lucci)—a fascinating character who, among other things, assisted doctors working with the Selective Service System to weed out potential gay troops leading up to World War II, during which time Gross was accused of “fraternization” with a number of his interlocutors.

217 BOXES OF DR. HENRY ANONYMOUS

Friday, October 11, at 8 pm.

Saturday, October 12, at 3 pm and 8 pm.

Freud Playhouse, UCLA

245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.

Ain Gordon, 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous, from top: Derek Lucci; Dr. John E. Fryer (right) at the 1972 APA convention in Dallas; Lucci; Laura Esterman(2); Ken Marks, with rear projection of Dr. Fryer. Lucci (top) and Marks photographs by Paula Court. Images courtesy and © the performers, the photographers, and CAP UCLA.

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