Education and career
Conigrave was born in Melbourne, and attended the Jesuit-run Xavier College, and later Monash University, where he appeared in Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man and Ariane Mnouchkine's 1789. Following graduation, he worked with St Martin's Youth Arts Centre. Under the direction of Helmut Bakaitis, Alison Richards, and Val Levkowicz he performed in the touring productions of The Zig & Zag Follies, Cain's Hand and Quick-Eze Cafe. In July 1981 he performed in the Australian Performing Group's (APG) production of Bold Tales at The Pram Factory, under the direction of Peter King. Also in 1981 he worked on Edward Bond's Saved for the Guild Theatre Company and completed his first play, The Blitz Kids, which was performed at the La Mama Theatre (Adelaide) in August that year.
Conigrave later moved to Sydney to study at National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), graduating in 1984. Two years later he was instrumental in initiating the acclaimed Soft Targets (1986) project at Sydney's Griffin Theatre Company, where for a period he served on the board of directors.
He appeared in such plays as Brighton Beach Memoirs, As Is, and On Top of the World. He was also a playwright, producing works including Thieving Boy, Like Stars in your Hands and The Blitz Kids.
His major work, the autobiographical Holding the Man (1995), is the story of his 15-year love affair with John Caleo. They met as students at Xavier College; Caleo was captain of the football team and Conigrave wanted to be an actor. Conigrave finished the book shortly before dying of an AIDS-related illness. The book was published by Penguin Books in Australia in February 1995, and also in Spain and North America. It won the 1995 United Nations Award for Non-Fiction.
Holding the Man has been adapted into a multi-award-winning play by Tommy Murphy. The premiere production was directed by David Berthold at Griffin Theatre Company. It later played a return season at Griffin, February–March 2007, where it also sold out, before transferring to the Sydney Opera House for a third sell-out season, 9–26 May 2007. Company B at the Belvoir St Theatre hosted a fourth season 22 September-4 November 2007. A fifth season played at the Brisbane Powerhouse in early March 2008, with a sixth following as part of Melbourne Theatre Company's 2008 season, 19 March-26 April 2008. In 2010 it played in London's Trafalgar Studios. There have also been productions in San Francisco, Auckland, New Zealand, and most recently was a 2014 production in Los Angeles directed by Larry Moss and featuring Nate Jones, Adam J. Yeend, Cameron Daddo and Roxane Wilson.
Later life and death
Conigrave and Caleo were diagnosed with HIV in 1985. They remained relatively healthy until 1990. In 1991, Caleo was diagnosed with cancer. Conigrave nursed Caleo, despite fighting his own illness. Caleo died on Australia Day (26 January) 1992. Conigrave died on 18 October 1994.
- article from Outrage Magazine July 1997 - with photos of Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo
- Griffin Theatre Company website
- North American distributor and promoter of Holding The Man book and play
- Holding the Man on Amazon, with reader reviews