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Guide to the John Vaccaro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous Papers
1959 - 2005
 MSS 321

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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Phone: (212) 998-2596
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Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Colin Torre, 2012.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 29, 2015
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

John Vaccaro was born in Steubenville, Ohio on December 6, 1929. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1951-1955, and receiving a B.A. in English from Ohio State University in 1961, he moved to New York City and became involved in the underground art and film community of the early sixties. After acting in Jack Smith's Normal Love and  Flaming Creatures, and performing in the "Happenings" of Robert Whitman and Walter DeMaria, Vaccaro founded the Play-House of the Ridiculous in the summer of 1965. Early collaborators and playwrights in this community included Ronald Tavel, Charles Ludlam and Kenneth Bernard. In 1967, during preparatory work for a production of Ludlam's play  Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide Vaccaro and Ludlam came to a disagreement and split into competing companies (Vaccaro retained the Play-House of the Ridiculous; Ludlam founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company).

Vaccaro's productions were staged at the Coda Gallery, La Mama ETC, the Gotham Art Theater, Max's Kansas City, The American Place Theater, and other Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway venues in New York. In 1970 Vaccaro received a special citation OBIE award. While sometimes performing in and writing the music for his own productions, Vaccaro took his companies on tours of Europe throughout the 1970s and served as director of the Native American Theatrical Ensemble. His theatrical influences include Alfred Jarry, Amiri Baraka, Eugene Ionesco, Charlie Chaplin, Antonin Artaud, and Jack Smith. In addition to the non-professional actors often employed in his productions, Vaccaro is associated with a variety of figures from the New York art and theater worlds, including Taylor Mead, Beverly Grant, Mary Woronov, Rene Ricard, Rosalyn Drexler, Ultra Violet, and Richard Weinstock. Vaccaro has lectured at a number universities and workshops, and has directed performances of his productions for the BBC and Dutch television.

Partial List of Productions (as director)

"Life of Juanita Castro" by Ronald Tavel (1965)

"Shower" by Ronald Tavel (1965)

"The Life of Lady Godiva" by Ronald Tavel (1966)

"Screen Test"/"Indira Gandhi's Daring Device" both by Ronald Tavel (1966)

"Big Hotel" by Charles Ludlam (1967)

"Conquest of the Universe" by Charles Ludlam (1967)

"The Moke Eater" by Kenneth Bernard (1968)

"Monkeys of the Organ Grinder" by Kenneth Bernard (1969)

"Cock Strong" by Tom Murrin (1969)

"Heaven Grand In Amber Orbit" by Jackie Curtis (1969)

"Son of Cock Strong" by Tom Murrin (1970)

"Night Club" by Kenneth Bernard (1970)

"XXXXX" by William M. HOffman (1970)

"Life of Lady Godiva" by Ronald Tavel (1971)

"The Life of Juanita Castro" by Ronald Tavel (1971)

"Persia, A Desert Cheapie" by Bernard Roth & Vaccaro (1972)

"Sissy" by Seth Allen (1972)

"Satyricon" by Paul Foster (1973)

"Elegy for a Down Queen" by Leslie Lee (1973)

"Body Indian" by Hanay Getgoman (1973-1974)

"The Magic Show of Dr. Magico" by Kenneth Bernard (1973-1974)

"La Bohemia" by Vaccaro (1974)

"Workshop of Y.M.C.A." by Gerome Ragni & James Rado (1975-1976)

"The Sixty Minute Queer Show" by Kenneth Bernard (1977)

"Juba" by Lawrence Holder (1978)

"Gulliver's Travels" by William M. Hoffman (1978)

"The Book of Etiquette" by William M. Hoffman (1979)

"The Writer's Opera" by Rosalyn Drexler (1979)

"Derby" by Barry Arnold (1979)

"Vulgar Lives" by Rosalyn Drexler (1979)

"Graven Image" by Rosalyn Drexler (1980)

"Flop" by Seth Allen (1980)

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare (1980)

"Starburn" by Rosalyn Drexler (1983)

"La Fin du Cirque" by Kenneth Bernard (1984)

"Transients Welcome" by Rosalyn Drexler (1984-1985)

"Goatman" by Raymond Schanz (1986)

"The Heart That Eats Itself" by Rosalyn Drexler (1987)

"Cara Pina" by Rosalyn Drexler (1992)