Roy Cohn/Jack Smith is Ron Vawter’s depiction of two white, homosexual men who lead very different lives in the 1950s, but whom both died of AIDS related illnesses in the 80’s. Vawter (1994) uses his performance to focus on the “two powerful forces which shaped their lives: A Virus, and a society which sought to repress their sexuality” (0:10:36-0:10:45). This one-man show has been, thankfully, preserved with the help of filmmaker Jill Godmilow.
‘Gigi’ is a great example of how a story can be told in different formats to give the viewers unique experiences. The story of ‘Gigi’ originated as a novel by Collete (Barnes 1973). This was then turned into a play, which Lerner and Loewe originally decided to adapt into a movie musical in 1958 (Encyclopedia of World Biography 2020). From the movie musical, the pair then created the Broadway show with additional songs and flair. The above advertisement highlights these new changes. In this story, the main character Gigi is sent off to be taught how to be an elegant woman, but on the way she falls for a man for which an interesting arrangement is then made (Barnes 1973). The details from the original story might be lost in the musical production, but what is gained is an enchanting viewer experience.
When Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent debuted in the 1990s, the small show quickly grew in popularity. Rent started as seven performances in late 1994 that led to an extended off-Broadway run, all presented by the New York Theatre Workshop (Heredia and Span 1996). It then spent over 5,000 performances between 1996 and 2008 at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater, telling its story of a diverse group of friends trying to live their lives while dealing with the horrors of AIDS (Grode 2015, 253).
August Wilson was a wildly lauded playwright in the 1970s and 80s, and used his abilities to share the stories of the struggles African Americans faced and the responsibility to make sure those voices were heard and that they had a place in the theater. Stories of Black Americans were told by Caucasians, which is problematic in of itself, as indicated in Wolfe (1998) “No people can gain authenticity by either accepting others’ judgment of them or looking to others for approval” (4). Wilson exhibited the Vincentian value of respect by giving a platform and awareness to struggles that were so often hidden and ignored (St. John’s University 2017). He also made sure to give opportunities to African Americans within the theater community with the creation of Pittsburgh’s Black Horizons Theater.
The object here is the program for the musical Corn. The program is archived in the William Harris Papers at Marymount Manhattan College (Brown 2001, 4). This program is the image selected for my AS-L project because Corn’s theme is Vincentian compassion for all marginalized people. This AS-L project gives voice to those in theatre who are misunderstood and often not heard from. Mr. Harris’ expert critique about Corn helped fill the seats. Harris embraced difference and appreciated Ludlam’s genius and the extraordinary performances in Corn. Corn won an Obie award as a critically acclaimed play that propelled Ludlam’s career forward. The information below takes the readers on a tour of one evening with theatre off-Broadway critic William B. Harris. Marymount Manhattan College is known for its dance and theatre programs and it is the perfect location to archive the William Harris Papers.
Mr. Harris went to the theatre at One Sheridan Square Playhouse to tell the world about Corn in 1978. The Chelsea Playhouse Theatre was later named after Ludlam along with the street in front of it. Ludlam influenced people within the gay community and anyone else open to his unique artistic style.
Ludlam gives meaning to the country singer Lola’s struggles to reconnect with her troubled past. The struggles that Lola faced are found in amusing songs and dances (Harris 1978, 1). The main character Lola overcomes exploitation from a greedy Manager to showcase Corn’s social justice themes (Edgecomb 2017, 17). The play features feuding families and images of Americana. Corn’s message is to encourage universal love and peace (Kaufman 2005, 25). In many ways their lives intersect because Ludlam created plays that helped people overcome life’s obstacles. Meanwhile, Harris wrote his reviews to bring attention to Ludlam’s quest. The Vincentian philosophy involves helping others in order to deepen our faith. It is especially important to stand up for people who face persecution due to some aspect of their identities.
Playwright Charles Ludlam wrote Corn to provide the audience with a parody about social justice issues (Ludlam 1992, 3). Ludlam’s plays routinely feature themes related to sexuality and acceptance of others.
Clipping of the play to be performed at the Biltmore Theatre
The Effect of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds was written by Paul Zindel. His novel received a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 and eventually became a popular Broadway performance. Some of the advertisements and review clippings from various Broadway performances of the play are archived in the William Harris Papers at Manhattan Marymount College. An impressive collection of 96 scripts, 4,450 folders of clippings and a collection of photographs gathered by Mr. Harris during the decades of the 1960s to the 1990s (Manhattan, 2016).
1989 Theater Review of James Mundy’s ‘Sinners and Saints’
One of the many treasures in the archives of Marymount Manhattan College is the William B. Harris papers. Harris, a theater and dance critic for the SoHo Weekly News and Theatre Crafts magazine accumulated over 96 unpublished play scripts and 4,450 archived boxes of clippings connected to various authors and playwrights over a thirty year period. When Harris died in 2000, his family donated his entire collection to the performing arts library at Marymount. Continue reading →