“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.”
“Nuanced, multifaceted, and engaging, Miller’s lively account of the financial crisis and resulting transformation of the performing arts community offers an essential chronicle of the decade and demonstrates its importance in understanding our present moment.”
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.
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.
“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.”