La MaMa + Wikipedia

In fall of 2017, La MaMa’s Archives received a $100,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to digitize and expand access to our collection of half-inch open reel videos. The collection documents over 150 productions that represent the enormous diversity of work being made at La MaMa during the 1970s. We have partnered with the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco, where the videos are being digitized, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, where the digital preservation masters are being preserved in perpetuity. At the conclusion of the project, researchers will be able to view access copies of these videos at both La MaMa and WCFTR. The project will enable the public to gain unprecedented access to information about the early Off-Off-Broadway movement through an audiovisual record of work by artists ranging from John Vaccaro and the Playhouse of the Ridiculous to Hanay Geiogamah and the Native American Theatre Ensemble.

In addition to digitizing and preserving these audiovisual materials, the project aims to expand access to these materials through multiple portals. Each of the productions documented on these reels is already described on La MaMa Archives’ digital collections site, but La MaMa’s catalog is not as heavily trafficked as other websites. In order to increase the discoverability of these materials, the project is supporting shared metadata across several platforms. We are augmenting the metadata about these materials on La MaMa’s digital catalog, and then porting this metadata to the Digital Public Library of America; we are also sharing this metadata with the staff at WCFTR, who are creating a detailed finding aid that will be accessible through the University of Wisconsin’s OPAC as well as WorldCat.  Additionally, we are editing Wikipedia, creating links to La MaMa’s digital catalog from Wikipedia articles about the artists and works represented on these half-inch open reel tapes. By linking from relevant Wikipedia articles to La MaMa’s digital collections site, we intend to simultaneously enhance the information available on Wikipedia about the early Off-Off-Broadway movement, increase access to La MaMa’s materials, and improve researchers’ ability to discover and learn about the artists whose work is documented by this collection – many of whom are underrepresented in the historical record and online.

MoMA

Screenshot of MoMA’s event page for the edit-a-thon (https://www.moma.org/calendar/events/3941)

As the metadata/access intern for this project, one key part of my job is to develop workflows and best practices for linking the collection to relevant Wikipedia articles. Before joining this project, I’d had very little experience editing Wikipedia. This project has given me the opportunity to learn about the best practices for Wikipedia editing that have been developed by librarians, archivists, artists, activists, and others in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) community. A number of GLAM-based groups are working to enhance visibility and discoverability of underrepresented people and communities on Wikipedia. One group that’s been working for several years to develop and share best practices for Wikipedia editing, in an effort to diversify the content on Wikipedia, is Art+Feminism. The group hosts Wikipedia edit-a-thons focused on improving Wikipedia’s representation of cis and trans women, feminism, and the arts. Art+Feminism’s fifth annual edit-a-thon was held at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan on March 3rd of this year, which was, fortuitously, one month after I joined the project at La MaMa. I attended the MoMa edit-a-thon with Rachel Mattson, the project’s Principal Investigator, and Alice Griffin, La MaMa Archives’ metadata/digitization assistant.

Having spent the month of February familiarizing myself with the collection by creating metadata and records in La MaMa’s digital collections catalog, I came to the edit-a-thon with ideas of several articles I wanted to edit. I’d been keeping a running list of the “notable” people represented in the videos and whether each had an existing Wikipedia article. Many, if not most, did not. The first production I researched when I joined the project was “Shekhina,” which was directed by Israeli theater artist Rina Yerushalmi at La MaMa in December 1971. “Shekhina” was Leon Katz’s adaptation of “The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds,” a Russian/Yiddish-language play written in 1914 by S. Ansky. Katz, an American playwright and scholar, had a brief Wikipedia article. Yerushalmi did not. I arrived at the edit-a-thon with the intention of creating a article for Yerushalmi.

The daylong event began with a panel discussion “about the relationship between structures of inequality and structures of the Internet, the affective labor of Internet activism, and creating inclusive online communities,” as listed on MoMA’s website. This discussion was followed by a training on Wikipedia editing led by Siân Evans, a founder of Art+Feminism and an Information Literacy and Instructional Design Librarian at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. For me, as a beginner, this hour-long training was enormously helpful.

Among the most important things I learned was that there are established best practices for editing Wikipedia, and that adherence to these practices improves the strength of a article and decreases the likelihood of its being deleted. This knowledge has proved very valuable to me in my Wikipedia editing; because many of the artists in La MaMa’s collection are so sparsely documented, their articles are especially vulnerable. That being the case, it is crucial to adhere to the following practices as closely as possible. Art+Feminism summarizes the core best practices for editing Wikipedia as:

  • stay neutral
  • maintain verifiability
  • no originality
  • don’t be messy
  • use reliable sources
  • test notability, and
  • know your stub (a Wikipedia article that is too short and needs to be expanded).

Of these, I was most concerned with maintaining verifiability, using reliable sources, and testing notability. (For more on rules of editing, Art+Feminism has a PDF guide on their site.) To maintain verifiability is to attribute each piece of information to a reliable source. Wikipedia defines reliable sources as books, journals, magazines, and newspapers published by mainstream presses. This definition is reasonable, though there is a useful point to be made about the absence of underrepresented people and communities in mainstream sources and the way in which this definition of reliability can reproduce and further this underrepresentation (both on Wikipedia and elsewhere). Notability also mandates that secondary sources must be available to be cited within the article. This practice guides Wikipedians to determine whether a given person, for example, merits their own article. (Wikipedia offers more on guidelines and policies for editing here).

Yerushalmi

Screenshot of Yerushalmi’s Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rina_Yerushalmi)

I’d noticed, as I compiled my list of people and productions represented in La MaMa’s half-inch open reel video collection, that many did not have an existing Wikipedia article. Of those people without articles, some were notable by Wikipedia’s definition, and others were not. After Siân’s training, I began looking for secondary sources to determine whether Rina Yerushalmi would be considered notable. I did find a number of sources, primarily newspaper articles and websites, about her life and work. I spent the rest of the day creating Yerushalmi’s article. (Even after several hours of editing, the article remains far from complete, and I hope others will contribute.)

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Screenshot of references and external links on Yerushalmi’s Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rina_Yerushalmi)

Since the edit-a-thon, I have edited several existing Wikipedia articles for artists whose work is documented by La MaMa’s half-inch open reel video collection, including Ed Bullins, Candy Darling, Paul Foster, Tom Eyen, Hanay Geiogamah, Geraldine Keams, Elizabeth Swados, the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, Basil Anthony Wallace, and Ahmed Yacoubi. In so doing, I’ve developed a strategy that I believe maximizes the impact of my edits and citations to increase the discoverability of La MaMa’s archival collections and to support researchers’ efforts to learn about the artists represented in this collection. I make minor edits to the text of the article itself (where necessary) and link out to La MaMa’s catalog records as references for either new or existing information on the article. When editing an individual’s article, I also link out to their artist article on La MaMa’s catalog, placing this link in the “external links” section that’s often included at the end of a Wikipedia article. For example, on Rina Yerushalmi’s Wikipedia article, I linked out to “Yerushalmi’s article on La MaMa Archives Digital Collections”.

La MaMa

Screenshot of Yerushalmi’s page on La MaMa Archives Digital Collections (http://catalog.lamama.org/index.php/Detail/Entity/Show/entity_id/2817)

Additionally, because Wikipedia’s power as an encyclopedia is partially due to the links that editors create between articles, I’ve made sure to enhance inter-textual linking between the articles I’m editing. For example, I linked Rina Yerushalmi to Leon Katz, as well as to “The Dybbuk” and to S. Ansky. I linked playwright Ed Bullins to actor Basil Wallace, who performed in a production of Bullins one-acts at La MaMa in February/March 1972. I also linked playwright Ahmed Yacoubi to White Barn Theatre, where La MaMa produced his play “The Night Before Thinking” in July 1974, and through White Barn Theatre linked Yacoubi to Lucille Lortel, who founded the theater space in a horse barn on her Connecticut property in 1947. Through these and other links between Wikipedia articles, we hope to create more opportunities for artists and researchers to discover and access the videos in this collection and to learn about the diversity of experimental theater that was being made at La MaMa during the 1970s.

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A Poster History of La MaMa

2017.12.04 Poster Panel Discussion photo by Maya Bitan 22 copy

Panelists listen to a question from the audience at “La MaMa’s History Through Posters.” Left to right: Alisa Solomon, Theodora Skipitares, Cindy Rosenthal, John Jesurun,  Susan Haskins. Photo: Maya Bitan.

From October-December 2017, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club hosted a temporary exhibit— “A Poster History of La MaMa’s Downtown Community”—in the lobby of its Ellen Stewart Theater. Featuring a selection of original posters from La MaMa’s Archives, the exhibition explored the history of downtown theater, the changing aesthetic vernaculars of theatrical posters, and the transformation of print technologies over the past 55 years.

The exhibit was designed to overlap with the publication of Cindy Rosenthal’s new book, Ellen Stewart Presents: Fifty Years of La Mama Experimental Theatre (University of Michigan Press, 2017), which tells the history of La MaMa through its posters—and included many of the posters featured there. And while the exhibition was up, La MaMa also hosted a series of related public programs—a panel discussion (featuring John Jesurun, Theodora Skipitares, Alisa Solomon, Susan Haskins, and moderated by Rosenthal); a book celebration; and two guided exhibit tours.

Poster Book Launch Party photo by Theo Cote 2

Photo: Theo Cote.

Why the focus on La MaMa’s posters? In her introduction to Ellen Stewart Presents, Rosenthal argues that La MaMa’s posters offer both a sweeping overview of La MaMa’s history and an poetic index of the creative practices deployed by its contributors; the posters offer, she writes, “a mirror” of the “politics and aesthetics” that shaped La MaMa’s communities. By way of explanation, Rosenthal quotes Meredith Monk, who believes that posters have the power to convey the idea and feel of a performance better, even, than documentary photographs. “Its hard to show in one photo what a play is about,” Monk observed. “A photograph taken during the course of a performance is capturing a specific moment in time—its not a distillation of the gestalt of the experience of a performance. But…a visual artist can distill one powerful image in a poster”—and that image “can represent a production” (Ellen Stewart Presents, p. 19).

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Poster for ‘One Arm’ (1962). This poster (made of cardboard & house paint) advertised the July 1962 La MaMa production of an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “One Arm.”

The history of La MaMa’s posters begins with the oldest artifact held in its Archives—a hand-painted poster created to announce the July 1962 production of Tennessee Williams’ “One Arm.” This black, white, and red poster—made of house-paint and cardboard, and containing only a few words of text—uses a visual style that echoes mid-century abstract painting, and doesn’t look much like the theater posters we’re used to seeing today. This design was both an aesthetic and a strategic choice: because La MaMa was, in its earliest years, an unofficial body in constant evasion of zoning regulations, artists worked to camouflage the advertising purpose of their posters. To the uninitiated, these posters were often indecipherable. But La MaMa’s communities quickly learned how to read these cryptic advertisements.

Poster for ‘Miss Nefertiti Regrets’ (1965).

Poster for ‘Miss Nefertiti Regrets’ (1965). This poster (made of magic marker, paint, and collage on paper) advertised the July 1965 La MaMa production of Tom Eyen’s “Miss Nefertiti Regrets,” which featured a young Bette Midler in the starring role.

For the first few decades of its existence, La MaMa’s posters were also generally crafted at a moment’s notice with scrap materials and little money, using the cheapest, most available modes of reproduction. La MaMa had (in Rosenthal’s words) “no funds designated for publicity and no one hired to design a poster or embark on a marketing campaign” (Ellen Stewart Presents, p. 10-11). Presenting artists—who, for many years, were responsible for designing and fabricating their own posters—used an ever-evolving set of design strategies and reprographic technologies. In the 1960s, La MaMa’s artists often created one-of-a-kind, hand-made posters, using house-paint, magic marker and/or photo-collage on cardboard. By the 1970s, artists were more likely to create multiples, using silkscreen, letterpress, and other printing techniques. The 1980s and 1990s saw an explosion in the use of Letraset and the photocopy. And finally, in the 2000s, La MaMa took over the work of crafting all of its posters with computer-assisted design and digital reproduction technologies.

Poster for 'Vain Victory' (1971).

Poster for ‘Vain Victory’ (1971). This two-color silkscreen advertised the 1971 La MaMa production of Jackie Curtis’s “Vain Victory; or, The Vicissitudes of the Damned.” The production featured performances by Holly Woodlawn, Mario Montez, Agosto Machado, and Tally Brown, among others.

Perhaps most important among these technologies was the photocopy. Ozzie Rodriguez (Director of La MaMa’s Archives) calls the Xerox “the most important machine” of the mid-to-late-20th century, because it enabled theater artists to reach their audiences in entirely new ways. As early as the 1960s, Rodriguez recalls, ambitious directors “would get all the actors together,” then pair them up, give them buckets of “wallpaper paste,” and send them off to “put flyers up everywhere.” That, Rodriguez recalls, “was the underground communication that we had…That was how you got your audience.”

Poster "Kazuo Ohno" (1981).

Poster “Kazuo Ohno” (1981). This poster (a photocopy on plain white paper) advertised Kazuo Ohno’s landmark dance performances at La MaMa in 1981.

Artist John Jesurun believes that the photocopy also shaped the aesthetic character of La MaMa’s late-20th century posters. “We would spend time in a Xerox shop, just printing and reprinting. Blowing things up, cutting things up…It was all rulers and X-Acto knives…letters and pieces of paper cut up all over.” But in Jesurun’s view, it wasn’t just the machine that was important; it was also the subculture that grew up around the photocopy shop. “There was a whole aesthetic that came into being at the Xerox shops…a deliberate effort on our parts not to look professional,” Jesurun remembers. The photocopy, he concludes, was especially essential tool in “an age” like the late 1980s/early 1990s—which was marked by “a sense of urgency.” (For more on the history and significance of xerography, see Kate Eichorn’s Adjusted Margin: Xerography, Art, and Activism in the 20th Century [MIT Press, 2016])

Poster for 'Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women' (1992).

Poster for ‘Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women’ (1992). This poster (photocopy on white paper) advertised La MaMa’s 1992 production of Rhodessa Jones’s one-woman show about the lives of incarcerated women.

Today, perhaps because tools for creating posters are available to anyone with access to a laptop, it is easy to overlook the abundance of information that posters, as artifacts, carry. Indeed, as Rosenthal notes, “with the digital age and the impact of social media, artists and their presenters” place “less emphasis on the poster” in marketing efforts.  But La MaMa’s historical posters invite close investigation, and they reveal a great deal about the worlds from which they emerged. They tell an overlapping set of stories about artistic experimentation, the development of a pioneering theater organization, and the practice of visual communication across the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They suggest the ways in which changing reprographic technologies helped to shape the development of a collective visual style and supported the establishment new creative communities. And they offer a great deal of information about the ebb and flow of the artistic and political currents that shaped the East Village and NYC’s theatrical avant garde over the course of the past 50-plus years.

Poster for 'Springtime in Nickyland' (2015).

Poster for ‘Springtime in Nickyland’ (2015). This poster (a born-digital image) advertised the 2015 iteration of Nicky Paraiso’s annual springtime cabaret.

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Below: Watch video of the panel discussion held at La MaMa on December 4, 2017 about the history of La MaMa’s posters. Featuring John Jesurun, Theodora Skipitares, Alisa Solomon, Susan Haskins, and Cindy Rosenthal. Videography by Theo Cote. (This event was made possible in part by a grant from Humanities New York.)


Programming related to “A Poster History of La MaMa’s Downtown Community” was funded in part by a grant from Humanities New York. Special thanks to Scarlett Rebman and Laura Kushnick at Humanities New York for their assistance, and, at La MaMa, to Poorna Swami, Ozzie Rodriguez, Cindy Rosenthal, Joyce Isabel, Laura Indick, Theo Cote, and Alejandra Rivera Flaviá for their work on this project.

For more about La MaMa’s archival collections, please visit our ever-evolving digital collections portal.

 

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Paid Internship in the Archives of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club seeks applicants for a paid archives internship. This is a temporary, part-time, paid position working approximately 20 hours per week (exact schedule to be determined). The internship will start in late January and last through May 2018, with the possibility of an extension through August 2018.

The intern will support a new, grant-funded project designed to expand access to a unique set of video materials from La MaMa’s collections. (For more information about this grant-funded project, please visit pushcartcatalog.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/nhprc-grant/.) With supervision from the Manager of Digital and Special Projects, the intern will conduct research and use a range of descriptive standards and strategies to improve the discoverability of these materials via Wikipedia, WorldCat, and the Digital Public Library of America. The intern will also be invited to participate in other work – including education, outreach, and assessment, and virtual meetings with our partners at Bay Area Video Coalition and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research.

$15/hour. Must be available to work weekdays.

The ideal candidate will be enrolled in a graduate program in information science, archives management, or a related area, and will have an interest in learning about community-engaged archival practice, innovative strategies in archival description and access, and theater history. The ideal candidate will also have exceptional research, writing, and communication skills, and some combination of the following:

  • Familiarity with and interest in learning about archival metadata standards and metadata harvesting;
  • Familiarity with and interest in learning about emerging practices for using Wikipedia and Wikidata to support improved discoverability of digital special collections;
  • Familiarity with and interest in moving image archival practice; and
  • Experience working in an archives or library.

To apply, please submit the following materials to rachel [at] lamama [dot] org by December 24, 2017:

  1. a cover letter containing information about your experience and interest in the position;
  2. a current resume; and
  3. the names and contact information for two professional references.

La MaMa’s Archives Receives a Major Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

For immediate use

The Archives of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club receives $100,000 from the National Historic Records and Publications Commission

Grant will preserve and enhance access to a collection of videos documenting 1970s-era Off-Off Broadway theatre

(New York, NY.— September 7, 2017) – The Archives of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club has received $100,000 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to support a collaborative project that will result in expanded access to a rare collection of videos that document theatrical work performed on La MaMa’s stages in the 1970s. La MaMa will work with Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) to digitize the collection of half-inch open reel videos, and will partner with the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) to store and digitally preserve these files in perpetuity. Newly created digital video materials will subsequently be made freely available to researchers, students, artists, and the interested public.

Activities for the two-year grant, “Expanding Access to the Videotaped Record of 1970s-Era Experimental Theatre,” begin in September 2017.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to preserve and expand access to this rare and valuable collection,” said Mia Yoo, La MaMa’s Artistic Director. “We’re excited to partner with BAVC and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research on a project that will make it possible for future generations to learn about the pioneering theatrical work that found a home at La MaMa in the 1970s.”

The most complete audiovisual record of early Off-Off-Broadway experiments in existence, the collection includes 261 unique videos which document approximately 170 Off-Off-Broadway performances (1972-1978) and the work of a diversity of ground-breaking artists, including: Mary Alice, Lamar Alford, Peter Bartlett, Julie Bovasso, Ed Bullins, Tisa Chang and the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre Company, Candy Darling, Johnny Dodd, William Duffy, Hanay Geiogamah and the Native American Theatre Ensemble, Adrienne Kennedy, Wilford Leach, John Braswell, and the ETC Company, Tom Eyen, Harvey Fierstein, Mike Figgis and the People Show, Paul Foster, Grand Union, Nancy Heiken, Yutaka Higashi and the Tokyo Kid Brothers, H.M. Koutoukas, Diane Lane, Agosto Machado, Jun Maeda, Manuel Martin, Magaly Alabau and the Duo Theater, Leonard Melfi, Tom O’Horgan, Rochelle Owens, Ron Perlman, Lazaro Perez, Robert Patrick, Ozzie Rodriguez, Kikuo Saito, Andre Serban, Elizabeth Swados and the Great Jones Repertory Company, Sam Shepard, Harvey Tavel, Cecil Taylor, Mavis Taylor, the Third World Institute of Theatre Arts Studies, Winston Tong, Tad Truesdale, the original Trockadero Gloxinia Ballet Company, John Vaccaro and the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, Jeff Weiss, James Wigfall, Ahmad Yacoubi, Ching Yeh, Cal Yeomans, Rina Yerushalmi, Duk-Hyung Yoo, Joel Zwick and the La MaMa Plexus Company, and many others.

“This collection documents the impact of La MaMa’s open-door policy on aspiring artists caught in the revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s eager to explore our brave new world,” said Ozzie Rodriguez, the Director of La MaMa’s Archives. “We expect that expanded access to this video collection will inspire similarly daring creative experiments in the years to come.”

As a whole, the collection offers a glimpse into the kinds of conversations that La MaMa has nurtured since its founding in 1961 – and a window onto the diversity of artists’ responses to pressing social issues of the 1970s. Productions documented in this collection include:

A 1972 production of “Body Indian” – one of several plays written by Hanay Geigogamah (a member of the Kiowah-Delaware nation of Oklahoma) and performed at La MaMa by the Native American Theatre Ensemble in the aftermath of confrontations between the American Indian Movement and the US government.

A 1976 production of “Godsong”– a gospel-rock song and dance revival of James Weldon Johnson’s Harlem Renaissance-era masterpiece “God’s Trombones.”

A 1974 production of “Ghosts and Goddesses” – a Chinese-American reworking of folktales written by Tisa Chang and performed by the pioneering ensemble that later evolved into the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre company.

A 1974 production of “Standard Safety”– a satire written and directed by the inimitable Julie Bovasso, about office work, bureaucracy, gender relations, and corporate culture in 1970s America.

A 1976 performance by Ekathrina Sobechanskaya and the original Trockadero Gloxinia Ballet Company – an all-male troupe, costumed as prima ballerinas, performing a high camp savage satire of classical Russian ballet.

A 1976 performance of “Who Chooses the Choices We Choose” – a play that was originally developed as part of a drama workshop by prisoners of the Taconic State Prison in upstate New York.

A landmark 1976 production of Fernando Arrabal’s “The Architect and Emperor of Assyria,” directed by Tom O’Horgan (director of HAIR on Broadway) and performed by Ron Perlman and Lazaro Perez.

As part of the grant project, staff at La MaMa and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research will enhance the public’s ability to discover these rare materials by linking collection and item descriptions from La MaMa’s digital collections website (catalog.lamama.org) to Wikipedia and the Digital Public Library of America. Information about the collection will also be discoverable through WorldCat. Over the course of the project, La MaMa and its partners will also create a short web-friendly video about the project, and will host three public screenings featuring highlights from the collection (in San Francisco, CA; Madison, WI, and New York, NY).

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About the project partners:

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart (recipient of a 1985 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship), La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Critic’s Circle, American Theatre Wing, and Bessie Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made and continue to make important contributions to American and international arts milieus. Tony award-winning playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein once said that “80% of what is now considered American theater originated at La MaMa.”

La MaMa’s Archives documents the work of La MaMa and promotes inquiry into the history of Off-Off-Broadway theatre. Conserved by people immersed in the theatre, La MaMa’s collections offer an intimate perspective on major social, aesthetic and political events of the past five decades. Its collections include posters, programs, flyers, correspondence, books, scripts, photographic materials, costumes, puppets, and film and video materials. Scholars and educators look to La MaMa’s Archives as an essential resource for information about the history of the American theatre and 20th century history. Among these, critic and scholar Alisa Solomon has called La MaMa’s archival collections “crucial” for anyone who wishes to understand the history of “American theatre [or] New York City.”

Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) is a leader in the audiovisual preservation community. Established in 1994, BAVC’s preservation program has allowed museums, artists and cultural institutions around the world to re-master, transfer, and archive seminal works on video and audio tape. BAVC’s preservation program has received support from the NEA, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation. BAVC has also developed high quality preservation standards and practices, served cultural organizations nationally, and spearheaded research and development projects related to archival moving image and video preservation

Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research (WCFTR) is one of the world’s major archives of research materials relating to the entertainment industry. It maintains more than 300 collections from outstanding playwrights, television and motion picture writers, producers, actors, designers, directors, and companies. Housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Library-Archives and administered by the Communication Arts department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), the WCFTR is one of the world’s most accessible archives, and is regularly visited by researchers from around the world.  Research undertaken in its collections has revolutionized the scholarship of American cinema, theatre, and television.

 

Be Kind Rewind: Setting Up A Film Rewind at La MaMa

       This Spring I have been interning at the La MaMa Archives while I complete my first year in NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program. When I first met Rachel, we discussed a few potential projects for the semester. One idea involved La MaMa’s collection of 16mm film, which had been catalogued by previous intern Genevieve Havemeyer-King. Unfortunately, the films couldn’t be inspected thoroughly at that time because La MaMa didn’t have a film rewind. But the archives needs a better record of the content of the films, how the images look, and which films should be prioritized for more long-term preservation. I thought the project sounded perfect for me.

        Very early on, Rachel warned me that working in community archives comes with its own special set of challenges. Unsurprisingly, funding is at the top of that list, and with La MaMa’s limited resources, I was tasked to get a rewind set up at virtually no cost to the archive. There are many little things that go into properly inspecting film. Ideally, I would need lint-free gloves, cloths to remove dust, isopropyl alcohol for cleaning, a spring clamp to keep the reel secure on the shaft, a light box to illuminate the film, and a loupe to magnify it. Most of these are inexpensive items, which we purchased from online retailers. And I found that I could just use my iPad as a light box. But we still needed the most important film-inspection equipment: the film rewind bench. Kelly Haydon, a Preservationist at Bay Area Video Coalition, had donated a pair of rewinds to La MaMa Archives last year. Rachel and I planned to make our own bench by screwing these rewinds into a wood plank, then clamping it to a table. But when I got a look at the set, it was clear they weren’t ready – they were missing handles and shafts (Shafts are the rods that the film reel slides onto for viewing).

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The donated pair of rewinds

        So I began my search for the missing parts. The rewinds we had were produced by the Hollywood Film Company, which is still in business, but multiple requests for a quote on spare parts were never returned. I spent a lot of time browsing eBay, but when you have no money, sometimes the best option is to ask your friends for help. I don’t yet know that many people in the archiving community, but an email sent out to the AMIA Listserv garnered several kind responses. One man actually sent us a pair of shafts free of cost (Thanks Danny Kuchuck!). I am quickly learning the benefit of having a community of archivists to turn to.

        As I worked on this project, I also spent time on other tasks in the archives, but after several weeks, I still hadn’t had any luck acquiring the right kind of handles for the rewind. It was admittedly turning into a frustrating situation. I took a week off to go on a class trip to the Library of Congress’s Audiovisual Conservation Center, and everywhere I looked I saw perfectly good film rewinds. I must have seen fifty of them, each one taunting me, reminding me that I didn’t even have one to work with. Then I got an email from Rachel:

“OK you’ll never believe what just happened- i found a pair of handles for the rewinds. apparently Kelly DID give me handles when she gave me the rewinds. and, er, she also gave me (wait for it): SHAFTS. i found all the hardware hidden in a secret location i had forgotten about.

ACK! so this is exciting and also annoying. sorry! and hooray!?”

        I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, but I ended up laughing. I wish that I could have been there to see her reaction when she realized we had the missing parts.

        As soon as I got back to La MaMa, Rachel and I got to work. The two pieces of the rewind needed to be secured to a flat surface, roughly two feet apart, so Rachel and I went down to the basement, found four screws, and drilled the rewinds into a plank of wood. We brought it back up to our office and clamped the board to a table using a pair of C-clamps. This has become my workspace.

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Our imperfect, but functioning rewind bench

After a month of ups and downs simply trying to set up a rewind, I can’t believe how quickly everything came together when I returned from my trip. I couldn’t be upset that we had the parts the whole time, because that time turned into a valuable learning experience. My first internship could have gone a variety of ways, and I feel so grateful to be in a place where my ideas and opinions are welcome, and where the work I do will actually matter. The final result of our rewind isn’t perfect, but it will do the job, and I couldn’t be happier. 

Now let’s look at some film.

– Caroline Roll

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It works!

List of the items we acquired for the film rewind bench:

Rewinds – Donated ($0)

Shafts – Donated ($0)

Handles – Donated ($0)

Spring Clamp – eBay ($25)

Wood – Found at La MaMa ($0)

Clamps – Found at La MaMa ($0)

Microfiber cloth – B&H, purchased used ($3)

Lint-free gloves – B&H ($5)

Loupe, B&H ($5)

Split reel – found in La MaMa archives ($0)

iPad – used my own ($0)

Total Cost: $38

New additions to our team

I’m thrilled to be able to introduce, now, several new additions to the La MaMa Archives cataloging team. This great crew is helping us successfully complete the final quarter of our CLIR-funded Hidden Collections cataloging project.

Michael Grant joined the team as a part-time Cataloger back in September. Michael graduated from New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Masters program last spring. In addition to contributing to La MaMa’s cataloging projects, he works at NYU Libraries reformatting and preserving critically out of print VHS and audiocassette titles, ensuring their accessibility for use and study in the future. He is also a member of XFR Collective. At La MaMa, Michael has been working on a describing video materials from our Pushcart Collection.

September was also the month that Deborah Shapiro began what is becoming a yearlong archives internship here at La MaMa. Deborah is in her final year of the master’s program in Archives/Public History at New York University. As an intern at the La MaMa Archives, she is currently working on a digital exhibit about xerographic reproductions in La MaMa’s holdings. This exhibit will investigate questions about archival practices related to photocopied materials, and will offer (she hopes) a few ideas about what kind of information and evidence photocopied materials might provide to researchers.

In November, we welcomed two additional part-time Catalogers to the team. Jameson Creager  is a recent graduate of Princeton University where he studied East Asian Studies and worked at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. In addition to cataloging at La MaMa, he currently works in the archive department of the news program Democracy Now!  Amilca Palmer comes to La MaMa with 10+ years of experience in the world of documentary filmmaking. She has worked as a researcher and producer on a wide range of documentaries, including Koch (2012), African American Lives II with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2008), and Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (2004).  At the moment, Jameson and Amilca are working to catalog materials from La MaMa’s Director’s Files.

For more about each of these (amazing) folks, see About the Team.

La MaMa at #AMIA15

I don’t travel to all that many conferences, but when I can, I try to make it to the meeting of Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). This annual event brings together a cross-section of scholars and practitioners, and offers a wide range of workshops, panel discussions, screenings, and networking events. Attending AMIA conferences has made me a far more competent and thoughtful archivist.

At this year’s conference, I had the opportunity to give a 5-minute “lightning talk” about La MaMa at a panel that was part of a daylong stream devoted to “Access, Outreach, and Use.” Below is a slightly edited version of this talk, which was entitled “Candy Darling and Copyright: Expanding Access to the Videotaped Record of 1970s-era Experimental Theatre.”

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Hi, and thanks to the organizers of the Access, Outreach, & Use stream for all their hard work. I’m here at this pop-up/lightning talk session to very briefly discuss the approach that one community-based performing arts archive is taking to access, use, and preservation of its analog moving image materials.

Specifically, I’m here to talk about work that’s happening in the Archives of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. Sometimes called the birthplace of Off-Off Broadway theatre, La MaMa was founded in 1961, in a basement in Manhattan’s East Village, and it quickly became an important site of theatrical experimentation. I don’t have time in this lightning talk to detail the long list of artists who found a creative home at La MaMa over the past five decades, but as Harvey Fierstein notes, the theater has played a critical role in shaping American theater and culture for half a century.

Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 12.28.13 PM.pngOne of the most infrequently noted of La MaMa’s many remarkable features is its archive. Occupying 5000 square feet in a building on East 4th Street, this archive holds over 30,000 unique objects–photographs, posters, flyers, masks, puppets, costumes, set pieces, and audiovisual materials. The archives has been run on a really small budget for years, but in the past decade, La MaMa has taken steps to make its collections more accessible. In 2014, we received a CLIR Hidden Collections grant, which supports the creation of a searchable catalog of materials from La MaMa’s earliest “pushcart” years (1961-1985).

Among the most vulnerable and valuable of materials in this collection is a set of ½ inch open reel video—which document approximately 170 Off-Off-Broadway theater performances staged between 1972 and 1980. They comprise the most complete audiovisual record of the early Off-Off-Broadway experiments in existence.

Productions documented in this collection include: A half a dozen experimental theater productions staged by the Native American Theatre Ensemble in the early 1970s in the aftermath of several high profile confrontations Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 12.29.49 PM.pngbetween the American Indian Movement and the US government;

A recording of a March 1976 performance of playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s “A Rat’s Mass,” directed by Jazz musician Cecil Taylor (Kennedy was a key figure in the 1970s-era black arts movement. One critic called “A Rat’s Mass” “a kind of black spiritual” in which brother and sister rat “gnaw and nibble…on the standards of life that Americans use to hold themselves together”); 

Three early works of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre; two performances by Grand Union dance company; an early performance by the all-male Trocadero Gloxinia Ballet; a dozen productions staged by the Playhouse of the Ridiculous;  collaborations between composer Elizabeth Swados and director Andrei Serban;

And a bilingual (English/Spanish) production of Tom Eyen’s “The White Whore and the Bit Player” featuring Warhol superstar Candy Darling in role of White Whore.

Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 12.30.33 PM.pngAmong the many challenges we face in making this collection accessible are five core issues:

1)Format obsolescence: Playback equipment for ½ inch open reel video is fragile and rare–the last machine of this kind was manufactured in the 1970s, parts are difficult to replace, and only a handful of living technicians know how to repair them. In 2011, Bay Area Video Coalition’s then-Director of Preservation, Moriah Ulinskas, wrote that she informed clients and partners “that they have 5, maybe 10 years left” to digitize their ½ inch open reel video–after which time “these recordings are gone for good.” As a result: digitization is a critical piece of our access strategies. Without digitization, no access to this material is possible.Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 12.32.57 PM.png

2)Copyright and Actors’ Equity regulations: Audiovisual materials documenting live performances require consideration of two sets of rights: 1)rights to the recording itself and 2)rights to the underlying performance. Additionally, if members of Actor’s Equity appear in any of these productions, the recordings are also subject to Equity code regulations.

3+ 4) Preservation infrastructure + Resources: La MaMa has limited financial and staffing resources. As a result, collaboration has been critical—with NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, for instance; and with Bay Area Video Coalition.

Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 12.36.02 PM.png5)We also face several issues that make cataloging these materials to facilitate access challenging.

On one hand, there is no well-established controlled vocabulary to assist in the description of theater materials. The Art and Architecture Thesaurus, which is may be the most likely, offers only very limited terms to describe theatrical performances.

Meanwhile, Library of Congress Subject Headings and other, more general controlled vocabularies, offer very limited terms for describing avant garde theatre artists, productions, and archival materials. Take, for instance, the ½ inch open reel video documenting Candy Darling and the production of “The White Whore and the Bit Player” in which she appeared. Is this queer theater? It is not about queers. More importantly, the term “queer theatre” is, in this context, anachronistic; or, at least, it wasn’t used by the people making this work. And anyhow, queer theater isn’t a Library of Congress subject heading.  And yet, to my mind, it is critically important to offer user-findable access points to help artists and scholars interested in the history of theatrical work created by LGBT people and communities locate related materials.  Similar descriptive issues arise in relationship to many of the other artists and productions documented by these videos.

OK: my five minutes are up! Read our blog, tweet at me, and tune in next year when (hopefully) more of this collection will be in the process of being digitized.

-Rachel Mattson

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Archiving My Time at La MaMa: A Goodbye Note from Suzanne Lipkin, La MaMa Cataloger

For the past year and a half, I have had the joy of cataloging many of the programs, flyers, letters, brochures, clippings, contracts, receipts, photographs, and the occasional Frisbee residing in the La MaMa Archives. From 1962-1985, La MaMa’s “pushcart” years, Ellen Stewart’s vision propelled a generation of theatre artists to launch the off-off-Broadway movement. Starting from a basement in the East Village, by 1985 La MaMa had grown to a campus of several theatres in the neighborhood and sent many of its productions and artists well beyond it, to Broadway, to the silver screen, and around the world.

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Suzanne at her desk at La MaMa.

My journey through the material treasures saved from this era has followed a similar trajectory. In the early days, I cataloged documents from the very first year of La MaMa’s existence. Some of these shows had only a single program or flyer remaining to mark their place in theatre history. As time went on, the files became more complex. La MaMa and its personalities garnered more press clippings, business and personal correspondence piled up, and productions extended their runs or went on tour, leaving behind an extensive trail of administrative and artistic documents.

I have had the cataloger’s privilege of deep engagement with these documents: I have felt the texture of the papers upon which La MaMa’s history is printed, I have come to recognize Ellen Stewart’s scrawled handwriting upon any blank space in any kind of document, and I have glimpsed the nature of the relationships between some of La MaMa’s most beloved and influential figures. At the same time, these materials cannot fully capture the essence of witnessing an early La MaMa production or, behind the scenes, the countless telephone calls exchanged in the course of artistic creation.

The purpose of this project is to reveal what has been hidden. Through our Collective Access catalog, which will be accessible through a public website in the next few months, our cataloging team has striven to bring La MaMa’s history in an accessible manner to anyone who seeks it. While much of La MaMa’s story lies in the people who lived it, this project has, for the first time, given thousands of archival materials unique classification and description, and it has linked La MaMa people, productions, and objects to one another in clearly denoted relationships. In my time with the project, I was able to contribute over 2,000 object records to the catalog.

This month, I embark on a new stage of my professional journey as a staff member at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. My time at La MaMa has immersed me invaluably in theatre history, the off-off-Broadway community, and the triumphs and tribulations of archiving and cataloging. I am immensely grateful for this experience, and I look forward to continuing to bring theatre history of all kinds to the researchers, artists, and enthusiasts who pursue it.

Medea (and More Medea) at La MaMa

This month, Dario D’Ambrosi brings Medea back to La MaMa. D’Ambrosi, an Italian theater-maker whose connection with La MaMa extends decades, has devoted much of his career to making theater with and about people with psychiatric disabilities. His Medea (which uses both English and “Attic Greek”) builds on this legacy, and features actors with a range of “diverse abilities” (including epilepsy, neurological disabilities and down syndrome).

Promotional Flyer: "Medea" (1963) (OBJ.1963.0008)

Promotional Flyer: “Medea” (1963) [OBJ.1963.0008]

D’Ambrosi joins a long list of artists who have brought Medea to La MaMa’s stage. La MaMa artists have found inspiration in this iconic tale about the righteous anger of a woman scorned since the earliest days of Off-Off-Broadway. Our Archives contains documents going back to the first appearance o Medea on the La MaMa stage–which was in 1963, when Donald Julian directed a version of Jean Anouilh’s Médée. (Anouilh [1910-1987] was a French dramatist best known for his adaptation of “Antigone,” which critiqued the Vichy government.)

In Anouilh’s version of the classic tragedy, the title character lives in a trailer park and dies in flames. Staged at 321 East 9th Street, the production starred Ellen Maris as Medea, Steve Merrick as Jason, Mary Boylan as the Nurse, and Robert Altman as Creon, Boy, Guard, and Narrator.

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Program: “Trilogy” (1974) [OBJ.1974.0157]

 

Two years later (1965) Harry Koutoukas staged his “Medea, Or, Maybe the Stars May Understand, or Veiled Strangeness” (also known as “Medea in the Laundromat”) at 122 2nd Ave. The production starred Charles Stanley in the title role. The Village Voice called this version so “eccentric as to be nearly unthinkable. The play is an enactment of the final terrible scene when Medea murders her child to avenge herself on Jason….Medea is the very heroine of old–fanatical, hideous, wronged, ecstatically suffering. But the action is set in a laundromat.”


In the 1970s, Medea was a mainstay of the work of The Great Jones Repertory. It premiered at La MaMa in 1972, and  formed a part of the company’s core repertory for many years after that, featuring in their tours to Germany, France, Lebanon, Iran, and elsewhere.

And in 2005, La MaMa hosted Jay Scheib’s reinterpretation, which starred former Great Jones Rep member Zishan Ugurlu, and told the story backwards. As Scheib explained, “What I hope to achieve in reversing the story—by running it in reverse—is to reveal a gripping examination of the process leading to Medea’s slaughter of her two sons, a king and his daughter, and her brother. Medea is a play about passionate ambition and irreversible decisions. The details of these decisions are what interest me…We all know how Medea ends. We barely remember how it starts…Suspense and her great accomplice—broken expectation—these are the tools of our experiment.”

Join La MaMa and D’Ambrosi and his cast October 8-18 to see what this new experiment reveals.

Jeff Weiss, “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid,” and the Dilemma of Archiving Performance

I’ve been thinking, this week, about the trouble with archiving performance. The essay I’ve started writing about it — in my head, at least — is called “Community, Presence, and the Dilemma of the Performing Arts Archivist.” For me, the importance of preserving and facilitating access to documentation of performance events is driven by my own sense of the power of live performance, and a few exquisite experiences I’ve had as a performer, producer, and audience member– experiences that have shaped my sense of what is possible, and what’s important about our personal and collective struggles, and how we might live more electrically. The trouble is that the archival record rarely offers anything at all that can reproduce, convey, or document those experiences. We can learn a lot by reading correspondence related to, or watching a videotape of, a performance– but what we learn there has very little to do with what happens when you are gathered together with other live bodies in a room, telling each other stories.

This dilemma gains new depth as I mull the epic 3-day revival (or whatever you call it; revival is not really the right word) of Jeff Weiss’s “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid,” that ran at The Kitchen last week. As anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to see or participate in Weiss’s work will tell you, no archive will ever be able to capture the power of Jeff Weiss or “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid.” This is theatre that relies, for its power, on live presence; theatre that makes, and solemnifies, community. How to archive that? Why bother trying?

And yet, I still find utility in the archive. Its true that no collection of documents will ever replace the experience of sitting in the audience while Weiss and his co-conspirators make us laugh and laugh and burst out with a longing we can’t describe and then cry. But maybe the archive can help us make sense of those feelings, those longings, and the possibility we glimpsed in the confusing dark. Maybe the documentary record of Weiss’s life and work can tell us different kinds of stories to help us make our way. Maybe the archive can also help us understand how people and events came to take the shape they took, or transmit at least a hint of these histories to new generations. Weiss has been making disarmingly powerful theatre for decades; there’s precious little scholarship or writing about his life and work; and far too few members of younger generations know anything about this legacy.

Its not that there’s no writing about Weiss and his work; theatre scholar Stephen Bottoms, among others, has written about Weiss’s life and work: “Weiss wrote and appeared in his own material under the direction of his lover, Ricardo Martinez, with whom he shared a close personal understanding,” Bottoms writes in Playing Underground: A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway Movement (2006). “The results were extraordinary, as the superlatives showered on Wess by interviewees for this book demonstrate: ‘He’s just the greatest’ (O’Horgan); “A dazzling virtuoso, a consummate theater craftsman in every area’ (Patrick);…. ‘The best things ever done at La MaMa were by Jeff Weiss’ (Kornfeld). Very much his own creation, Weiss was untrained as an actor, having quit Stella Adler’s class–which he saw as an ‘offensive lesson in group therapy’…–after just one session” (p. 330).

Its just that this isn’t enough.

And so that’s why, as I came down from the high of experiencing “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid” last week, I turned back to La MaMa’s archival holdings for– well, for whatever we’ve got about Weiss and his work. There’s a lot here, too much to share in one tiny blog posting. But I do want to share some of it (especially material from the 1960s and 1970s), so that those you who are already Weiss fans can enjoy the inadequate delights they provide, and so that those of you who have never heard of him can begin to wonder about this incredible artist, his work, his legacy, and his worlds.

Below, a selection of items from La MaMa’s Archives documenting Weiss’s work. (Click on any image to see an enlarged version.)

1)The earliest object La MaMa’s Archives holds to document Jeff Weiss’s work is a postcard invitation to Robert Sealy’s “Waiting Boy.” This 1964 production marked the first of many times that Weiss performed at La MaMa. Sealy supposedly cast Weiss after seeing him waiting tables at La MaMa, earlier that year. “Weiss was” Bottoms writes, “an instant hit.” These were the days when La MaMa was still known as Cafe La Mama, and occupied a space at 82 Second Ave.

Invitation to Robert Sealy’s “Waiting Boy” (1964), Weiss’s first performance at La MaMa. Sealy supposedly cast Weiss after seeing him wait tables at Caffe Cino.

2)The archives also holds several objects that document early versions of “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid.” Among these objects is a photograph of Weiss performing the piece at La MaMa in August of 1966. This version of “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid” featured Weiss onstage solo. As Bottoms writes: “Welcoming the audience into his ‘home,’ [Weiss] regaled them with tales of his attempts to raise the cash to pay his back rent, while indulging tangentially in a ‘cascade of fantasies, reminiscences, meditations, poetry-readings, and miscellaneous schticks’,” (Playing Underground, p. 330). The photographer who created this image is unknown.

Weiss performing

3)We also have the poster created to advertise this production. The poster indicates that show was directed (of course) by Ricardo Martinez, with sound by David Walker. (Poster designer unknown.)

Poster for Weiss’s solo “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid,” (La MaMa at 122 Second Avenue, Aug. 1966)

4)The repository also holds a range of profiles of Weiss and reviews of his work. The clipping below, a February 1967 World Journal Tribune piece called “Talented Young Actor Chooses Poverty to Easy Compromise,” was written by critic John Gruen. The article offers a brief overview of Weiss’s life and work to date — Weiss was still only 24, but he had already written and starred in several well-received off-off-Broadway productions — as well as praise for the work. Gruen quotes Weiss, who had already come to understand his desire “to engage the audience– their role is as important and meaningful as ours. I insist on their involvement. I sweat up there for them. They’ve got to do some work, too.”

Profile of Weiss, titled “Talented Young Actor Chooses Poverty to Easy Compromise,” published in the World Journal Tribune in Feb. 1967.

5) The Archives also holds several photographs of Weiss’s performance in Harry Koutoukas‘s “When Clowns Play Hamlet” (La MaMa, September 1967). Below, a photograph of Weiss with his fellow performers Mary Boylan and Beverly Grand.  Set backstage at a circus,”When Clowns Play Hamlet” tells the story of three sad clowns. Joyce Tretick (critic for the publication Show Business) called Weiss’s portrayal of Pancho, a hermaphrodite clown who used to work at the freak show, “remarkable”: he was “totally in character with his role” and “his use of mime [was] both inventive and ingenious.” (Photographer: Ted Wester?)

Weiss with Mary Boylan +Beverly Grand in

6) Material in our collections also chronicle the changing nature of “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid.” In June of 1979, the Villager published a review of the latest iteration of the piece, mounted in May at La MaMa. In the piece, entitled “Jeff Weiss: Portrait of the Artist as a Sane Genius,” writer John S. Patterson explains that, in this version of the play, “Weiss tells the story of Mike, Jerry, and Dwight Deifendorfer, brothers awaiting the probate of their father’s will…These brothers follow an inevitable and illuminating path to the cooling unit of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant….[There] the power of their lust, [and] the insatiability of their greed…precipitates the disaster with which the nation lived for that nightmare week of incomprehensible terror.” But, of course, plot summary offers only a partial view of the power of Weiss’s work. “Weiss,” Patterson notes, “has created a structure which soars, arches, and blasts its way through this family with an inventiveness, wit, and perception rare enough in themselves but unusual indeed when subjected to Weiss’ theatre of extremes.”

Villager review of

7) But “And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid” wasn’t the only show Weiss wrote and produced at La MaMa in the 1960s and 70s. Below, for instance: a promotional photograph for Weiss’s 5-hour long “Dark Twist” (March 1979), which co-starred a young Nicky Paraiso (pictured at far right), among others. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Weiss and the cast of

These documentary fragments might be inadequate representations of Weiss’s monumental theatrical legacy. But I’m still really glad they exist.