Friday, January 30, 2009

John Herbert McDowell on SUPERFREAK

I think we have to be extremely careful, and much much slower in assessing what we think, feel or say about Donald Brooks' THE DEATH OF JOE CINO. It is, maybe, the one and only truly unbelievable theater event of all of our last 15 years of ferment. Grotowski, Living, Open -- everybody is left quite thoroughly behind in the face of a concept like this. That anything so monstrous and shocking should really have happened in a public theater defies the imagination.
The fact of its being and secondly the violent reaction to its being, raise incredible questions. As to who we are and where we're at. For one thing: The direct action taken against this show by people who have not seen it, is deeply disturbing -- the worst of all possible betrayals. It plunges us back into McCarthyism and all those thousand years of know-nothing censors -- the people who waged, successfully, campaigns as to what we could see, hear or read: without having seen, heard or read it themselves. Have we reached the first really triumphant point of possible honesty on stage, and screen only to have some of the very people who fought for this freedom for so long, completely invalidate it when the knife thrusts home?
I really don't know what the show is all about. Only the last ten minutes hit me viscerally (the death scene and its fantastic accusations against the living). I do not know Donald Brooks. I think the real title of the show is THE DEATH OF DONALD BROOKS. Given the particular world into which it sprang, the show itself seems like a pretty suicidal gesture. The brilliance of the production has not been much mentioned. I thought that the extraordinary direction pretty much made up for the sleaziness of the writing (and I'm not speaking of the subject matter but the writing as a separate fact). Where has Mr. Brooks directed or not been asked to direct?

What provoked an assault on where we live that hit us with such an astonishing brutality in this year of 1969 -- when we thought we were pretty well beyond such an emotional reaction?I hated this play. Yet I wonder if it is not the ultimate necessary step right now. What does it mean when somebody gets on stage and says and does terrible things about people you love? Maybe the highest function of art is to upset the audience. HELLO DOLLY does not; FORENSIC AND THE NAVIGATORS does. This play upset me immeasurably. Where am I and where is it? I still can't think clearly about it some weeks later. We must think longer about it and where it puts us.

-- John Herbert McDowell, ABEL Magazine, November, 1969

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Off-Off Broadway and Beyond

New and/or expanded links have been added to the opening paragraph of Off-Off Broadway and Beyond (highlighted in color):

Donald L. Brooks is a playwright, director, designer and actor who has worked Off-Off-Broadway with Soren Agenoux, Edward Albee, Ross Alexander, Michael Allinson, Word Baker, ‘Ntoni Bastiano, George Barteneiff, Bhaskar, James Bidgood, Julie Bovasso, Kenny Burgess, Dorothy Cantwell, Al Carmines, Joseph Cino, Jacque Lynn Colton, Ralph Cook, Jackie Curtis, Robert Dahdah, Joseph C. Davies, Divine, Johnny Dodd, Magie Dominic, Roslyn Drexler, Helen Duberstein, Joan Durant, Ethyl Eichelberger, Tom Eyen, Ron Faber, Edie Falco, Crystal Field, Harvey Fierstein, Richard Foreman, María Irene Fornés, Kevin Geer, Amlin Gray, John Guare, James Jennings, George Harris, The Harris Family, Robert Heide, Lee Kissman, Arthur Kopit, H. M. Koutoukas, Russell Krum, Don Kvares, Deborah Lee, Ralph Lee, Rosetta LeNoir, Jacques Levy, Barbara Loden, Lucille Lortel, Charles Ludlam, Gretchen MacLane, Adele Mailer, Bill Maloney, Marshall W. Mason, Taylor Meade, Murray Mednick, John Herbert McDowell, Andy Milligan, Mabou Mines, Meredith Monk, Mario Montez, Tiger Morse, Richard Morse, Larry Myers, Odetta, Ondine, Joel Oppenheimer, Rochelle Owens, Sally Ordway, Robert Patrick, Austin Pendleton, Bernadette Peters, Gerry Ragni, Christopher Reeve, Tim Robbins, Natalie Rogers, Arthur Sainer, Stuart Sherman, Sam Shepard, Michael Smith, Lewis J. Stadlin, Charles Stanley, David Starkweather, Ellen Stewart, Lincoln Swados, Harvey Tavel, Ronald Tavel, Megan Terry, David Tice, John Vaccaro, Jean-Claude van Itallie, Hervé Villechaize, James Waring, Jeff Weiss, Arthur Williams, David Willinger, Lanford Wilson and Mary Woronov. He has been active Off-Off-Broadway continuously for over forty years and is numbered among the innovators of the movement -- indeed, having given the name “Off-Off-Broadway” in jest to a Village Voice writer who subsequently created listings headed as “Off-Off-Broadway”. His plays have often been controversial, most notably “Xircus, the Private Life of Jesus Christ” and "Superfreak, the Death of Joe Cino", both of which he was the author.

(Names and/or titles with color print indicate a link.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Caesar Twins



The ending dialogue and directions from the play
"SUPERFREAK, The Death of Joe Cino" by Donald L. Brooks


Ladies and gentlemen, “The Death of Joe Cino” written and directed by the Vampire of Cripple Creek with the assistance of everyone!

(A sign descends reading “The Death of Joe Cino” and without pause, rises.)(Ravel’s Bolero has begun to play. The Ringmaster removes his mask, shakes hair, stares into flys -- then into audience, eye to eye. Oedipus Tex, covered with a plastic drop-cloth passes, Cino does not notice. Witch/Pope Screw passes in the opposite direction. Screams. Cino walks as if an animal in a cage about the stage and winds up in the Madness of Lady Light set. A pause. He circles again and again around Euphelia, drags her into the set and caresses her dead body, finally realizing she is dead he pulls the cover over her and withdraws in horror only to see the dead St. Christopher. St. Christopher cuts himself down with a large butcher knife from the noose from which he had been hanging and hands the knife to Cino. St. Christopher kisses Euphelia and carries her offstage. Cino then tries to escape his shadow which is seen on the wall. He faces the audience. He looks again at the audience. He caresses his flesh with the knife feeling the sensuousness of the edge of the blade -- this mime/dance has taken us through the Bolero and upon the final crescendo, Cino cuts his own stomach, wrists and neck, and continues to stab himself during the music’s climax. Thunder and sounds of rain. He falls with one hand in the air holding the knife, as a drowning man. The lights remain, dimming slowly as a sign descends, “The Vampire of Cripple Creek, Part III“.)

(Thunder and rain sounds continue, Witch/Pope Screw enters in the regalia of a Pontiff, selling apples.)


Like that? (Sniffs from a vial of nitrate.) It stunk! Cheap theatrical bitch! Actually, I don’t care on way or another. I have my own life to worry about -- besides, I have few emotions -- except sight, sound, touch, taste and smell -- and the only emotion I can feel now is smell -- there is no sound, I don’t intend to touch, I’m not cannibalistic -- and I’m certainly not going to look -- he might not even be there -- I really didn’t notice, was he here tonight? Really, the only emotion I feel is smell -- and it’s blood and it doesn’t come from the stage, it comes from the streets -- I’m going now, and you should do the same -- emotions are wasted upon emotions -- thank God, he’s dead!

Oh… I’m supposed to tell you -- Oedipus lives in Death Valley where he eats shit and never speaks -- before he left, he took over the Cripple Creek Saloon and kept it open nearly a year -- but it was never the same, it’s one thing to have a vampire in the wings and quite another to have one running the show. The trouble with Oedipus was he wasn’t a true vampire, he was just a junkie. Looking for an oasis, he created a poisonous pond and thus Cino died. Goodnight. I know when to leave, I don’t suck out my own blood -- this place is all dried up -- I haven’t seen a virgin arm in weeks -- everyone is bats -- they all suck! So go -- veni, vedi, vamoose! Balls!


Oh, again… one very last thing. Have you ever thought, I mean really thought about what it takes to cut your own throat -- have you ever tried it? Oh! The icy blade against your flesh! God, it takes a lot of strength! Try it sometime -- try it!!!

(Hideous cackle, a deep breath, then back to business, as he exits out the front door of the theatre.)

Apples. Fresh red apples. Apples!

(During the time Witch/Pope Screw speaks, the signs of the different plays of the evening slowly descend around the stage, including a new sign in the foreground, “SUPERFREAK” and a spinning skull hung from a string as a spider. As the Witch begins his/her exit selling apples, the Beatles “All You Need Is Love” has begun to play. On the opening fanfare, the signs rise in disorderly fashion, the lights click out one by one and the skull alone remains in a single shaft of white light, spinning slower and slower as the lights fade imperceptibly, creating a hallucinatory glow which disappears completely only upon the song’s final strains of “Greensleeves” -- darkness.)

The End


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quote from Robert Patrick

January 13, 2009
Having had a chance to skim DONALD's newly-revised site, I BEG you to take a thorough look at it.
Even if you have seen it in the past, PLEASE look again at this much-enlarged and -augmented version!
Actor/writer/director/designer BROOKS shows us 1960s-1970s theatres, many of them forgotten or destroyed, and many, many striking photographs and posters for shows he acted in, wrote, directed, and/or designed. (He won an Obie for his set designs.)
Most of the images exude the exotic aura of a style rife on Off-Off Broadway then, and all but forgotten now - a style enclosing Greek myth, Catholic ritual, Hollywood luridness, Las Vegas glitter, and New York psychedelic complexity. There is even one play starring playwright H.M. Koutoukas himself, the master of this important and influential style, which Koutoukas himself dubbed "tacky glamor," and "Cobra madness."
What's more, among the often large casts are, besides the famous Harvey Fierstein, such Cino People as Joel Thurm, John Herbert MacDowell, Jacque Lynn Colton, Harvey Tavel, Ronny Tavel, and Deborah Lee -- as well as legendary underground stars Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, and Agosto Machado.
DONALD worked long and hard at the Caffe Cino, and two of these pages cover his bitter play about the Cino, "Superfreak," and the lively reaction of the Off-Off community to it.
Scholars and scanners alike will be enriched, amazed, and entertained by kaleidoscopic flip through a fifty-year career spent on the cutting edge.
-- Robert Patrick


Click on Collage above to go to page for photos of Donald L. Brooks, member of Actors Equity Association

Friday, January 09, 2009


A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros, 1880, William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


The Birth of Venus, 1879, Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Monday, January 05, 2009


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Act of Revenge

See how the white snow sparkles in the sunlight while the cold air greets the hot breath in protest. The last words were but a groan without meaning and the first but a cry of sudden nakedness. Screams in the night and silence by day. Hope without hope and strangers without pity. Lost dreams and thoughts of reprisal stinking like rotted flesh on its way to oblivion among all else come and gone by the way no sooner born but to die. I take this revenge!

from "Act of Revenge" by Donald L. Brooks