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Charles Ludlam's

January 12, 2015, 7:30 pm

Lucille Lortel Theatre • 121 Christopher Street

Starring Charles Busch

with Beth Dodye Bass, Sandra Bargman, Arnie Burton, David Drake, Everett Quinton, Matthew Rauch, Thom Sesma, Rocco Sisto, and Nomi Tichman

Directed by Everett Quinton

Who’s the grandest dame of them all? 19th century melodrama takes a ridiculous turn in this “Travesty on La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas Fils.” 


Also check out our Revelation Reading of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL starring Charles Busch and Everett Quinton.


The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Readings series provides a unique opportunity to hear new and rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.




An innovative exponent and creator of the cultural ferment that prevailed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Charles Ludlam was born in 1943 in Greenlawn, Long Island. He had his own theater company, The Student’s Repertory Theater, before entering Hofstra in 1961, where he excelled as a character actor. He was determined to open his own theater company in New York in order to become a star. In only 20 years, he wrote 29 plays for his Ridiculous Theatrical Company—plays in which he both starred and directed as well. Highlights include Bluebeard (1970), Camille (1973)—in which Ludlam played the consumptive courtesan in drag, his chest hair famously displayed beneath the décolletage of the heroine’s gorgeous gowns—and his last, The Artificial Jungle (1986). But none of Ludlam’s plays has been as phenomenally successful both during and after his lifetime as The Mystery of Irma Vep (1984). If the audience for Ludlam’s tiny theater at One Sheridan Square included such cultural luminaries as Warhol, Sontag, Nureyev, Fran Lebowitz, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Avedon and Philip Roth, he was in turn an influence on Charles Busch, Tony Kushner, Paul Rudnick, Bette Midler, and Madeline Kahn, to name but a few. “One of the problems with accepting a tag like avant-garde or gay theater or neo-post-infra-realism is that you’re a bit like an Indian on a reservation selling trinkets to the tourists,” Ludlam told an interviewer for the Times. “You have no real interaction with the culture, and whatever impact you may have had on that culture is nullified. That’s why I’ll always refuse to be typed as this or that. If people take the trouble to come here more than once, [they’ll see that I have a mission] to have a theater that can offer possibilities that aren’t being explored elsewhere.” Ludlam died from AIDS in 1987, when his cultural importance was signaled by a front-page obituary in the New York Times.



The performance that had the most influence on me was Charles Ludlam in Camille, which he wrote and in which he played the female lead, Marguerite Gautier. I first saw him do it at the Evergreen Theatre on 13th Street in New York City in 1973. Then when I was at Northwestern University, his Ridiculous Theatrical Company did a series of performances at the University of Chicago, so I schlepped over there to see it. Later, when he took over the theater at One Sheridan Square, he did it there many times in repertory. I had never before seen a writer-performer and someone who had his own company. I had never seen drag in a truly theatrical context. He also had the same frame of reference of opera, theater history, and classic film as me. He was like a wonderful bucket of water awakening me to the possibility of making your own work instead of just hoping to be cast by someone else. I could create my own theatrical world...keep reading at

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