Coffeehouse Chronicles #142: John Vaccaro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous

May 6, 2017

Make a Reservation

The Downstairs | 66 E 4th Street

Saturday at 4PM-6PM

Free Admission; Suggested Donation

2 hours

Michal Gamily - Series Director
Arthur Adair - Educational Outreach

 Celebrate the life and career of John Vacarro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous with archival footage, live performances and panelists.

Moderator: Penny Arcade

Panel Members: Michale David Arian, Agosto Machado, Don Arrington, Gabriel Berry, Lola Pashalinski, Tony Zanneta

Performers : Ruby Lyn Reyner & Chris Rael

About the Artists

JUDY ALTMAN did her fist play in New York City with John Vaccaro at LaMama.  It was a Christmas Play called XXX's.  After that a few more off-off Broadway  plays and then off to L.A. where she worked in T.V. and Film. and  did Stand-up Comedy, a One Woman Show THURSDAY'S CHILD, she wrote and directed at the Players Club and in Paris, France.She also wrote a Play called SEX, also done at the Players Club.  She is also proud to be the Great-niece of Fanny Brice.
MICHAEL ARIAN's life and education began when, in 1967 as a 19 year old, he won an ABC Network scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After not being asked back for year two of the scholarship, creative thinking brought him to a job where he met Kenny Hill. Kenita-as he came to be called brought him to La Mama for the first time to see a Jackie Curtis play. Finding it the funniest thing ever-he soon joined the company beginning 18 years of working in NYC and touring all around Europe with The Playhouse of the Ridiculous and La Mama where he had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel Berry. Including work at Theater for a New City, La Mama, Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte and Off-Broadway, he counts his association and touring with Hair in Germany and Spain and the various authors and actors he met here and abroad as being some the best things that ever happened to him all coming out of his association with La Mama and the great Ellen Stewart. It's hard to know where to begin.
DON ARRINGTON first came to LaMaMa in 1970 as a member of Wilford Leach and John Braswell's performance of "The Only Jealousy of Emer" and Stravinsky's "Renard," where he played a tap dancing rooster. The company went on to become the E.T.C. Company of LaMaMa. He first worked with John Vaccaro beginning in 1978 in LaMaMa's CETA program's "Juba," followed by The Judge in Theater for the New City's "La Justice by Ken Bernard" various roles in William Hoffman and John Braden's "A Book of Etiquitte," at LaMaMa; Roslyn Drexler's "Graven Image" with Mink Stole at TNC, Ken Bernard's "Le Fin du Cirque" at LaMaMa , and "The Heart that Eats Itself" at TNC. Through meeting Mel Howard, the first producer of the ETC Company tours, he became company manager for numerous international touring dance and music companies throughout the globe. He is also a composer and playwright, including "Allegros!," "If This Ain't It!," "On the Block," "Without Apparent Motive," produced at LaMaMa, the old WPA and TNC. He is currently working on a play with music, "Cemetery Beach".
GABRIEL BERRY was in a castle in Budapest (then a workers' museum) overlooking the Danube when a voice spoke to her."Go to New York and be a costume designer" it instructed. OK, she thought. Good idea.  it was late 1978. She got the next train out of town, made her way back to her home in North Carolina, packed her bags and moved to New York. She arrived in early 1979. She moved into a loft on The Bowery sharing space with musicians, dancers and painters. Within a few months she met Ellen Stewart, made her New York debut designing the costumes for Charles Ludlam's The Enchanted Pig and became the costume designer in residence at LaMaMa E.T.C. A list of artists she collaborated with at this time includes John Albano, Christopher Alden, Ken Bernard, Ed Bullins, Du-Yee Chang, Donald Eastman, Tom Eyen, Maria Irene Fornes, Ron Link, Mabou Mines, Robert MacBeth, Leonard Melfi, Anne Militello, Tom O'Horgan, Robert Patrick, James Rado, Gerry Ragni, Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Julie Taymor,  John Vaccaro, Mac Wellman and Mel Wong. Companies and venues included Coney Island USA, Dance Theater Workshop,  Danceteria, The Pyramid Club, The Ridiculous Theatrical Company Theater For the New City and ,of course, LaMaMa.
AGOSTO MACHADO's CV. We have learned over the years of the Coffeehouse Chronicles that he has an intimate knowledge of and connection to nearly every speaker and group presented. Among his favorites he names Jeff Weiss, H.M. Koutoukas, Jackie Curtis, Jim Neu, Charles Allcroft, Chris Tanner and the late Great Ethyl Eichelberger. Plus he does a wicked good impersonation of the late Ellen Stewart……………….
LOLA PASHALINSKI is a founding member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company where, with writer/director Charles Ludlam, she created 17 roles in 13 years.  She received two Obie awards for her work with the company. Since leaving the Ridiculous in 1980, Lola worked extensively Off-Broadway and regionally in productions directed by Lee Breuer, Richard Foreman, JoAnne Akalaitis, Les Waters, Anne Bogart, David Gordon, Neil Bartlett, among others. With her life-partner Linda Chapman, she wrote and performed GERTRUDE AND ALICE: A Likeness toLoving, receiving her third Obie in 2000. Lola made her Broadway debut in FORTUNE'S FOOL with the late Alan Bates. She's appeared in many films and on television, including most recently EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE directed by Stephen Daldry
CHRIS RAEL has led the world pop group Church of Betty for almost 30 years. He met John Vaccaro through Penny Arcade in the late nineties. The trio became close, traveling to Italy several times in the late nineties/early 2000s. Chris considers John one of the great art mentors of his life. In 2002, Church of Betty released the album 'Tripping With Wanda', the title track of which is about John's raunchy, feminine alter-ego Wanda Sue Lipshitz. John loved the song, which remains notorious among many of his friends. 
RUBY LYNN REYNER of Stage, Screen and Rock & Roll Juke Joints. Her career spans from the 1970s to the present day. Original star of the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, Ruby was the lead in 40 John Vacarro productions including Jackie Curtis'  "Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit". Ruby is a winner of the Drama Desk Award for John Vacarro's "La Bohemia, & Emmy Nominee for the HBO Documentary "Finishing Heaven". Ruby dedicates her performance to the late, great John Vacarro.
TONY ZANETTA worked extensively in the Off Off Broadway theatre of the 1970’s and 80’s in plays by Andy Warhol, Jackie Curtis, Ken Bernard, Roslynn Drexler, Anthony J. Ingrassia ,  Wayne County and Linda Mussmann’s TIME AND SPACE LIMITED.   For a time in the 70’s he toured the world with David Bowie,  managing his  ZIGGY STARDUST  tours worldwide and producing  the DIAMOND DOGS and YOUNG AMERICANS  tours for MainMan Ltd.   MainMan also produced Ingrassia’s ill fated Broadway venture, FAME.  After his rock and roll stint he returned to LaMaMa to work in the PLAYHOUSE OF THE RIDICULOUS with John Vaccaro in THE SIXTY MINUTE QUEER SHOW.  He appeared in revivals of NIGHTCLUB and XXX’S at LaMaMa  and worked with John for the next several years at  LaMaMa  and TNC.   The last play they did together was Roslynn Drexler’s PINEAPPLE FACE  at TNC in the mid nineties. In the Nineties Tony began a career in Set Design an Event Production.  He is currently a Visual Director and Event Producer in Manhattan.

About Coffeehouse Chronicles

Coffeehouse Chronicles is a free educational performance series exploring the history and development of Off-Off Broadway from its inception within the Village “Coffeehouse Theatres” of the 1960s through today. Part artist portrait, part creative event, part history lesson, part community forum, it is our mission to provide a home, as did our founder Ellen Stewart, for personal and intimate engagement with art. Since 2005 La MaMa has presented more than 123 Coffeehouse Chronicles featuring personal oral accounts from artists of the day as well as conversations with present day artists who continue to work in the same bold, daring manner. Coffeehouse Chronicles are held on one Saturday each month (September through June).
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.