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  • the relationship between two gay men at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in Robert Chesley's erotic and emotional play Jerker takes place entirely over the telephone?

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Robert Chesley (March 22, 1943, Jersey City, New Jersey – December 5, 1990, San Francisco, California) was a playwright, theater critic and musical composer.

Between 1965-75 Chesley composed the music to over five dozen songs and choral works, chiefly to texts by poets such as Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, James Agee, Walter de la Mare, Gertrude Stein and Walt Whitman. His instrumental works include the score to a 1972 film by Erich Kollmar.

In 1976 he moved to San Francisco and became theater critic at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, during its golden period when composer-actor Robert DiMatteo was also on the staff as film critic. In 1980 Theatre Rhinoceros produced Chesley's first one-act, Hell, I Love You; in 1984 his Night Sweat became one of the first produced full-length plays to deal with AIDS.

On August 31, 1986 his two-character play, Jerker, aired on the Pacifica, California radio station KPFK's IMRU Program. Its frank sexual language immediately stirred controversy; later that year the FCC rewrote its rules governing the broadcast of "questionable" works, citing Jerker as the test case.

He was also co-founder of the Three-Dollar Bill Theater in New York City.

In total, Chesley wrote 10 full-length and 21 one-act plays. Several works were premiered posthumously and all of his major plays have been published.

Chesley died of AIDS in San Francisco at the age of 47. The Robert Chesley Award for Lesbian and Gay Playwriting, given annually by Publishing Triangle, is named in his honor.

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