‘now my hand is ready for my heart: intimate histories’
Written and performed by Nicky Paraiso
Directed by John Jesurun
‘now my hand is ready for my heart: intimate histories’ is the newest work from Nicky Paraiso, an award-winning 40-year veteran of the New York City performance community. In a deep exploration of an artist’s life, Paraiso investigates aging, identity, sexuality, class and race. Directed by MacArthur Fellow John Jesurun, this world premiere is a multi-disciplinary celebration of an artistic community as it grows older and continues to make work, both individually and with each other. Paraiso is joined by choreographer / dancers Irene Hultman, Jon Kinzel, Vicky Shick, and Paz Tanjuaquio in performance and as collaborators.
It must have been early 1980’s, and I was working (performing as a mime) at an upstate NY fair “German Alps Festival” at Hunter Moutain. The festival included many performers and once in awhile we would meet up after the day’s work was done and attend a show or movie together. One day puppeteer Eric Bass recommended that we see this show with puppeteer Robert Anton.
The performance was one of the most hypnotic performances I have ever witnessed! Wearing only black pants and black top he performed with a neutral facial expression while making his little puppets come alive. Since he did not allow recordings of any of his performances the work remains legendary. I will leave the details of his show to others to describe.
I was delighted to see that Broadway 1602 Gallery had mounted an exhibit of his puppets with other articles from his shows and work. I have included video interviews (courtesy of Broadway 1602 Gallery) and photographs from the show here. Thanks to Broadway 1602 for allowing me to capture this beautiful exhibit and post documents and photographs from it.
Robert Anton passed away at age 35 in 1984.
Robert Anton in one of the few photographs taken of him during his show.
(Courtesy Broadway 1602 Gallery)
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– a couple of scenes from the work of Robert Anton, a beloved puppeteer of the nineteen-seventies: “Anton as puppeteer-surgeon sometimes probes his figures with a tiny forceps, pulling out a brain or a heart, or finding inside (in one show) a red stone, a red branch, a red starfish, red feathers, and red fur. In another show, a bag lady who has assembled herself out of a heap of miniature refuse peers into the puppeteer’s own mouth in search of new objects.”
“A visionary theater of whose scale is inversely proportional to the scope of Robert Wilson’s vast panorama is the puppet theater of Robert Anton. Performing rituals of transformation and rebirth and original alchemical allegories with an Artaudian emphasis are miniature finger-puppet actors, whose heads are no larger than one and a half inches. They enact these silent and mysterious rites on a small black velvet stage before an audience of no more than eighteen spectators.”
“His inventions would look to him for reassurance. That was always very moving…His movements of the face were minimal, withholding of himself, a supreme actor…He could express powerful contempt: The pope with an absurd mitra, degraded to cardinal/bishop, gets closed in a jail tower in his finery…then becomes a blind man tapping. Then a horrid puppet with leather gear and a shaved head, a lot like Himmler –pisses on a target on that prison. He’s got one leg, walks with a crutch…diabolical. (Something right out of George Grosz.) Three visual artists were most important to him: Bosch, Redon and Grosz…The puppets he took to the Plaza to show Fellini…He knew Fellini’s movies inside out. The one that meant the most to him was TOBY DAMMIT, also JULIET OF THE SPIRITS…Nino Rota’s music. He unconditionally respected Chaikin and Stella Adler. When she came to his performances, she talked throughout to the puppets. …The play involved a redemption from the world, an overcoming – a metaphysical confrontation.”
Benjamin Taylor, “Robert Anton in Retrospect,” Theater Ex, 1986
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Main room of the Broadway 1602 Gallery featuring the puppets of Robert Anton.
Secondary room featuring works on paper and cases displaying fragile clothing and documents.
Robert Anton’s entire show was carried in these suitcases. The interiors were divided up into precisely made sections of felt backed compartments that housed the puppets and small masks/props for the show.
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Off all the puppet actors I photographed this one reminded me of how ‘real’ the characters in his plays were when he animated them. Robert only allowed 15 people at a time to attend his performances and the images here are what the puppet actors would have looked like had you been one of those audience members as I was. If you want to see more of the exhibit visit the Broadway 1602 Gallery website here.
Already from the tender age of nine, Anton followed an original childhood impulse to create en miniature: He re-built the stage sets of famous Broadway musicals he had seen with his parents in New York and London, reduced to a proscenium of 18” across and 12” high, and yet so breathtaking in detail and elegant precision that Anton was endorsed by journalists in his hometown Forth Worth in the mid 1960s as the “ingenuity of a Michelangelo”.
Anton arrived in New York in 1970, after two years of stage and costume design studies at Carnegie-Mellon University. He continued his studies in New York at the Studio and Forum of Stage Design. In 1973, collaborating with the composer Elizabeth Swados, Anton designed the scenery for the Broadway musical “Elizabeth I” — his drawings for the queen’s costume survived. In the same year, his collaborations with Ellen Stewart’s La MaMa theatre began where he also staged his own plays. Repeat performances took place in his apartment on West 70th Street. Among the enthused audience and supporters were La MaMa Playwright and director Jean-Claude van Itallie, who was inspired by Anton’s ‘actors’ and started introducing puppets to his own plays, writer Susan Sontag and her son David Rieff, famed acting teacher Stella Adler, childhood friend and novelist Benjamin Taylor (Anton features as “the puppeteer” in his autobiographical debut novel “Tales out of School”, 1995), actress Linda Hunt who was soon to become a star in Robert Altman and David Lynch’s movies, theatre revolutionary Peter Brook, Broadway tap dancer, singer and choreographer Tommy Tune, Broadway’s director legend Hal Prince, the doyenne of the fashion world Diana Vreeland, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, to name a few.
Between 1974-75 Anton presented his puppet theatre at Robert Wilson’s Byrd Hoffmann Foundation and directed at the National Theater of the Deaf in Waterford, CT. His tour through Europe began, first performing at the Mickery Theater in Amsterdam. In 1975 Anton represented the United States at the International Theater Festival in Nancy, France, causing an avalanche of enthusiastic reviews in the French press depicting Anton’s miniature theatre as one of the most memorable and outstanding acts of the festival. The Nancy engagement introduced Anton to France’s flamboyant cultural minister Jacques Lang. In 1976, President Francois Mitterand and Jacques Lang designated the Château de Vincennes outside of Paris for Anton to set up his studio and living quarters and to perform for one year. Anton presented his plays and co-founded a visual/mime theatre program for the deaf-mute at the Chateau. In 1977 he created a new production for the Festival D’Automne in Paris.
Upon his return to New York in 1978, Anton moved to a large loft on 96 Spring Street and presented nightly performances of the “Paris Spectacle”. In 1981 Robert Anton was appointed as the American representative at the Theater der Welt Festival in Cologne. In the same year, he performed at the Teatro Argentina in Rome where he met Fellini again.
In the early 1980s, Anton’s experimentation took him to new stage designs, a move connecting him back to his childhood Broadway musical stages while the ‘actors’ fade into the background. Anton created glamorous miniature stage sets as “an homage to the 1940s” (Benjamin Taylor), sets like ‘Radio City Hall’ animated with grand and witty gestures to the tunes of Fred Astaire and Busby Berkeley. From there, Anton further radicalized his concepts. His last work was a play composed purely of light, exploring the psychological impact and metaphysical dimension of color, once more elaborately staged in a miniature proscenium: “A third final spectacle remained unfinished at this death. Totally unpopulated, it would have been an evocative constellation of set, sound, and light.” (Genii Grassi, “Robert Anton in Retrospect”, Theater Ex, 1986).
In an endeavor to bring back to a contemporary audience — and to the many of his generation who were not part of the blessed and illustrious able to see his performances — the experience of Robert Anton’s theatre, we interviewed on film, and continue to do so, witnesses of his plays and his life, friends and peers who were close to Anton’s universe. These dedicated and moving testimonies are an integral part of the exhibition and will constitute the core of a future documentary on The Theatre of Robert Anton.
We would like to express our gratitude to Bette Stoler who brought The Theatre of Robert Anton to us and who shared her memories of her friend and his context with us to help to realize the project. We also would like to thank Anton’s friends and peers who so generously shared their memories with us in the filmed interviews giving such rich testimony to Anton’s history.
“The Theatre of Robert Anton” at BROADWAY 1602 UPTOWN, December 2016 – February 2017
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Documentary film produced in the context of the exhibition “The Theatre of Robert Anton” by BROADWAY 1602
“Ralph Lewis led Peculiar Works troupers on a wild ride to the top in Son of Cock-Strong. This non-sequel sequel (originally directed in 1970 by La MaMa bad boy John Vaccaro) follows Arthur Cock-Strong Jr.’s rise to power in a ridiculous musical with new compositions by Spencer Katzman.”
The Son of Cock-Strong, Kevin Percival wins a musical motorcycle race as Mick Hilgers’ villain peddles on.
Mick Hilgers lost the race but is good sport enough to join Kevin’s Cock-Strong, Jr. in a soulful duet, played by Spencer Katzman, Rob Gaines and Rob Mitzner.
Sylvia Milo’s flight attendant gives the boarding announcements—yes, Tom’s play takes a wild turn the airport.
A little girl (Caiti Lattimer) is stalked by a nefarious walkie-talkie puppet.
Arthur Cock-Strong, Jr. (Kevin Percival) pleads his case to Tim Cusack’s evil doctor.
Catherine Porter’s televangelist, St. Love, clowns for the congregation.
The congregation gets whipped into a joyful frenzy by Spencer Katzman’s original music with (l-to-r) Megan Cooper, Rachel Naar, Denis Gawley, Gabriele Schafer and Caiti Lattimer.
Kevin’s Arthur Jr. thinks we hit it on the nose, but St. Love’s hand-me-down protuberance is not long for this world.
Arthur Sr. and Mom died in their sleep, but Stan Baker and Megan Cooper brought them back to life.
In this peculiar play, one character starts as a make-up artist and ends as the President’s exercise instructor – and Joyce Miller made it work.
Cristi Castro as Aphasia struggles to recall the lyrics to a song she can’t sing.
Uncle Charlie sends everyone home happy (Gabriele Schafer, under all the hair, make-up, and Angela Harner’s costume)
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Director: Ralph Lewis
Producer: Barry Rowell
Composer: Spencer Katzman
Musical Director: Megan Cooper
Projection Designer: King Man Ho
Magic Consultant: Tom Klem
Interactivity Consultant: Jeff Wirth
Performers: Stan Baker, Cristi Castro, Megan Cooper, Tim Cusack, Rob Gaines, Denis Gawley, Mick Hilgers, King Man Ho, Spencer Katzman, Caiti Lattimer,Joyce Miller, Sylvia Milo, Rachel Naar, Kevin Percival, Catherine Porter, Gabriele Schafer
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Tom Murrin (1939–2012) was best known as a pioneering performance artist of the East Village scene, turning trash into treasure in his uniquely entertaining shows. But he began as one of the first generation of La MaMa playwrights and continued to write and present plays throughout his life. His influence on generations of artists spanning theater, performance art, and dance was profound and continues today.
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The OBIE award-winning Peculiar Works Project creates, develops and presents original multi-disciplinary performances that are accessible and fun for diverse audiences. Since 1993, we’ve performed in unconventional spaces because we believe unique sites impact our work, the work in turn impacts the site, and audiences then experience both in surprising new ways. We encourage collaboration, experimentation and a rebel spirit in artists by providing them with the tools and opportunities necessary to develop new alternative performances. We have presented site-specific productions in landmark buildings, gutted storefronts and other peculiar sites throughout NYC.
In this homage to the mood goddess Luna Macaroona on the occasion of the April Full Pink Moon, AUNTS presented a stellar lineup of performances and a touch of mayhem. The list was a ‘who’s who’ of the downtown performance scene. Hosted by Lucy Sexton.
Lucy Sexton hosted the Full Moon show with joy and pizazz which was evident on her face throughout the night.
LaMama’s ‘The Club’ program director Nicky Paraiso holds up the program for the festival and gets the show started.
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Opening this wonderful evening of performances was Antonio Ramos and his peculiar ‘barbie doll’ fantasy.
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Salley May and her ‘Pink Full Moon’ piece was wonderful. Pedro J. Rosado(L) on stage with Salley.
Pedro J. Rosado (on floor) Louis Belle Ethyl May, Salley May and Annabel Clare Sexton Daldry fight to the finish.
Annabel Clare Sexton Daldry, Salley May, Pedro J. Roasdo, Lucy Sexton,Alice Klugherz and Louise Belle Ethyl May take curtain call.
The play’s immediate and essential subject is the elephant itself, mysterious, majestic – the world’s largest and oldest living land-mammal – yet it ultimately confronts the tensions in the extraordinary and historic relationship with humans – sounding out the nature of the mind and soul of Man.
Jeremy Crutchley is “The Other”, a presence caught between worlds. While the inspiration comes out of Africa, the themes are universal: as relevant in the heart of the city as in the wild. This is us, now. There is simply no other drama quite like it.
Here are some photographs from the dress/tech today. The show times and dates are listed below the photographs.
The text is so powerful and inspired. You really should take some time and experience this evening of theatre with this great actor Jeremy Crutchley.
Wed, Sept 4th & Thurs, Sept 5th at 8pm (Preview)
Fri, Sept 6th & Sat, Sept 7th at 8pm; Sun Sept 8th at 3pm
Wed, Sept 11th – Sat, Sept 14th at 8pm; Sun, Sept 15th at 3pm
Wed, Sept 18th – Sat, Sept 21st at 8pm, Sun, Sept 22nd at 3pm
When I first became aware of Tom Murrin and his ‘aka’ The Alien Comic he had been performing for many years.
His work in the ‘performance art’ community is very significant and he has many admirers and friends to prove it.
This is a photograph I took of Tom at Dixon Place when it was located on East 1st Street.
Tom Murrin performing at Dixon Place in the alternate persona “The Alien Comic”.
I got to know Tom and as my work developed I began doing interviews with performers I liked.
Here is an interview broken into two parts that I did with Tom on Oct. 10th, 2008.
In this last year I photographed many of Tom’s show and always had trouble focusing my camera because I really wanted to listen and absorb Tom’s delightful, heartfelt, political, funny, intelligent and aspiring stories.
Here are few shots I did in the last year during Tom’s shows.
Tom Murrin performing in the Full Moon Show at LaMama
Everyone I know who knew TOM MURRIN will miss him dearly. His love for the art, community, friends and family are still with us.
Bringing together a cast of Felliniesque performers including Annie Lanzillotto and Heather Lewerenz was Salley May.
Salley May and Pedro J. Rosado Jr.
Another wild scene from the Salley May piece.
Salley May (with Heather Lewerenz) gathering up her lost possessions.
Summoning the spirit of Ellen Stewart (played by Agosto Machado) who spoke so kindly of the people continuing the work she started.
Tom Murrin (l) and cast from the Full Moon show celebrating the Finale of the show with candles and cupcakes
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FULL MOON CREW HISTORY
TOM MURRIN/ALIEN COMIC
I started doing shows every full moon in Seattle in 1974. These were comic ritual salutes to Luna Macaroona, the moon goddess, and over the years I’ve done them all over the world, at the entrance to the Star Ferry on Hong Kong, outside Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, and in a public park in Bombay, India. And I still do them wherever I happen to be.
In the early ‘80’s I met up with 4 women performers, all dance majors at Ohio University, Athens Ohio, who relocated to New York: Jo Andres, Mimi Goese, Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton, and we did performances and workshops together. In the mid-80’s Annie and Mimi were living in an apartment on 14th St. near 6th Ave., and on full moon nights we would have performance parties for our friends. I’d do a full moon salute, Annie would organize a fashion show and we might all end up on the roof dancing in the moonlight. Our friend Bill Schaffner, a master technician and stage manager, came to one party and afterwards went to Mark Russell, the artistic director of P.S. 122, and asked him if we could do a full moon show at P.S. when it happened that the moon was full and the house was “dark”, or had no other show on. Mark said, “Sure,” and that was the birth of The Full Moon Crew.
Bill produced all of our shows at P.S. 122. At each show, over the next few years, the audience would sit in the middle of the room, at tables and chairs, beer was served, and we would set up our acts around the room. I’d go first and set the tone with a full moon salute to Luna, and introduce the others. We always had 2 guest acts as well, like Ethyl Eichelberger, John Kelly, or Steve & Mark (Steve Buscemi and Mark Boone, Jr.). So there would be 3 acts, an intermission, and 3 more acts. Mimi would do something frightening, like one night entering from outside the 2nd floor window. Jo would stage a visual magic show; with dance, music, movies, slides and flowing fabrics. And Annie & Lucy, who performed as DANCENOISE, would always close the show. Since they almost always ended their act naked, under a shower of stage blood, no one could follow that.
In the mid-‘90’s and after that, I continued doing Full Moon Shows, at various other venues, sometimes with members of the Full Moon Crew, but often with other performers on the downtown scene. I remember one a few years ago at Dixon Place where my guests were Jonathan Ames, who told stories, Julie Atlas Muz, who did a strip tease inside a huge white balloon, and Mangina (Patrick Bucklew) who wore a plastic bubble over his head which, for a second, became ignited. Luckily he survived with no injuries. Luna seems to watch over those who honor her special night.