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.
Gwenwald, Morgan, Group of LHA Coordinators, June 1993, photograph, 8” x 10” (20.23 x 25.4 cm), Lesbian Herstory Archive, Brooklyn, New York, www.lesbianherstoryarchive.com. Courtesy of Morgan Gwenwald.
In 1986, Marge McDonald passed away. A midwestern lesbian, McDonald left her journals, books, and photos to the Lesbian Herstory Archive (LHA) (“Friends in Ohio” 1988, 2). Unfortunately, her family began auctioning off her belongings. LHA contacted the auctioneer, who would allow representatives a single day to come in to salvage what they could of the 6,000 belongings (“Friends in Ohio” 1988, 2). With the eyes of McDonald’s family and the community of Nelsonville, Ohio on them, two local lesbians worked until the 5:00PM cutoff to pack as many of McDonald’s items as they could into a pick-up truck bound for New York City (“Friends in Ohio” 1988, 2). Today, those rescued belongings form the “Marge McDonald Special Collection.” McDonald wasn’t famous. She was an ordinary woman.
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.
Queering Fanfiction Event Poster from Marymount Manhattan College
This artifact is a copy of a poster advertising for an April of 2017 event discussing Queering Fanfiction, or taking media and putting an LGBT spin on it, usually so that two previously heterosexual characters enter a homosexual relationship. The event was hosted by Marymount Manhattan College’s (MMC) Gender and Sexuality Studies Club which, in addition to being a club, is a minor offered by the college. This aligns with MMC’s mission to help students “develop an awareness of social, political, cultural, and ethical issues in the belief that this awareness will lead to concern for, participation in, and improvement of society” (Marymount Manhattan College, n.d.). Because homosexuality has only recently begun to lose its stigma, there are few items from the LGBT community in MMC’s archives, save for the past decade or so. Continue reading →