Hewitt Book Award

Drop Dead: Performance in Crisis, 1970s New York has won the 2017 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History, given by the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) to the best book in theatre history or cognate disciplines.
I was honored to be able to receive the award at ASTR’s conference in Atlanta this November, and to celebrate with the wonderful people at Northwestern University Press and the writers and editors involved in this fantastic series, “Performance Works.”



New: “I took my play and ran…”


—> Read “Subject To Punishment: Julie Bovasso’s Angelo’s Wedding and the Politics of the Unproduced,” my article on Bensonhurst-born playwright/actor/director Julie Bovasso (1930-1991) in the May 2017 edition of Theatre Survey (58:2). 

“The preview performance of Julie Bovasso’s Angelo’s Wedding on 11 May 1985, imploded after an altercation between the playwright and the staff of Marshall Mason’s Off-Broadway Circle Repertory. Bovasso, then almost fifty-five years old, attended the performance against the explicit wishes of the production team; the rehearsal period had been fraught. Suspecting unauthorized cuts, Bovasso took a seat in the audience, but then, midshow, confronted the backstage crew and demanded the chance to give the actors notes. The staff refused. At the start of the third act, Bovasso changed tactics: she alighted the stage and instructed the audience to leave the theatre. Members of the crew blocked her access to the actors, leading to a physical altercation, a 911 call, and, eventually, her forced eviction from the theatre.”

[Photo credit: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Julie Bovasso.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1950 – 1963.]

urban renewal, retrenchment, & La Mama

The four-story, red-brick Aschenbroedel Verein building, now La Mama E.T.C., 74 East 4th Street, 1977. Photo Edmund V. Gillon / Museum of the City of New York.
The four-story, red-brick Aschenbroedel Verein building, now La Mama E.T.C., 74 East 4th Street, 1977. Photo Edmund V. Gillon / Museum of the City of New York.

I’m very glad to have an article included in the insightful special issue of Performance Research, “On Institutions.” My piece contextualizes Ellen Stewart’s Off Off Broadway theatre, La Mama E.T.C., within a climate of fiscal crisis, neighborhood politics and real-estate policies of 1960s and 70s New York City.

Access the full article here, and follow this link to see the contents of the issue.

Julie Bovasso & the Dramatic Imperative

Upcoming: the Association for Theatre Research (ASTR) conference in Baltimore, where I will participate in the Debating Postdramatic Theatre working session with, “The Moon is Ours! Julie Bovasso & the Dramatic Imperative.” Short excerpt below the still of Bovasso in Robert Frank’s 1961 short film, The Sin of Jesus.

Julie Bovasso in Robert Frank's The Sin of Jesus, 1961.

“And it was not just Actor’s Equity rules and cramped basement theatres that the Bovasso aesthetic mocked; on the downtown performance scene, a restless and expansionist avant-garde outgrew its playgrounds to find a tower of Babble awaiting them. Her characters speak English, Swedish, Chinese, Italian, and gibberish; their mother tongues are unstable, their desires are hysterical, their conflicts self-reinforcing. ‘What do you mean, dream’s over?’ a desperate lawyer asks a psychiatrist, holding tightly to the fantasy of Jungian interpretation. Bovasso’s writing and direction stressed the uncanny contours of loss, experienced through the performers’ resistance to their roles, and the playwright’s insistence on a fraudulent dramatis personae.”