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

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Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Colin Torre

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 07, 2018
Finding aid written in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Updated by Jasmine Larkin to include unprocessed publications, ephemera, and project files from accession number 2011.321, and edited for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description.  , September 2018

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Vaccaro, John
Source - dnr: Vaccaro, John
Title: John Vaccaro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1959-2005
Abstract: John Vaccaro is an actor and theatrical director who became a primary figure of the Off-Off Broadway and gay theater communities in New York City. The John Vaccaro Papers preserve the items related to Vaccaro's theatrical productions, including scripts, correspondence, photographs, posters and critical notices. Materials date from 1959 to 2005.
Quantity: 8.25 Linear Feet in 3 records cartons, 5 flat boxes, 4 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes, 2 flat file folders, and 1 half manuscript box.
Location: Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Language: Materials primarily in English, with some publications in French, German, Italian, and Dutch.
Call Phrase: MSS 321

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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)

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Scope and Contents

The John Vaccaro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous Papers contain materials that document Vaccaro's professional theatrical career, ranging from the early 1960s through 2005. The collection preserves Vaccaro's primarily collaborative work, including scripts, notebooks, articles, essays, and correspondence that date back to his early career as an actor in the emerging world of Off-Off Broadway theater in New York. Elements include source material for his productions as well as promotional material in the form of ephemera, flyers, festival programs, posters and postcards. This body of components also includes the work of collaborating playwrights, and material related to the theatrical and Greenwich Village communities of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In addition, this collection includes professional and personal correspondence, production and personal photography, original illustrations, publications, and a scrapbook. Materials date from 1959 to 2005.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 4 series. Oversize materials are listed at the end of the finding aid.

  1. Series I: Projects
  2. Series II: Posters and Ephemera
  3. Series III: Photographs
  4. Series IV: Publications
  5. Oversize - Series I: Projects
  6. Oversize - Series II: Posters and Ephemera

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Vaccaro, John
  • Bernard, Kenneth
  • Drexler, Rosalyn
  • Ludlam, Charles
  • Tavel, Ronald

Document Type

  • Plays (performed works).

Subject Organizations

  • La Mama Experimental Theatre Club
  • Play-House of the Ridiculous

Subject Topics

  • Experimental theater -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Off Off-Broadway theater.
  • Off-Broadway theater.
  • Downtown Collection.
  • Playwriting.
  • Theatrical producers and directors.
  • Actors.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by John Vaccaro was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; John Vaccaro and the Play-House of the Ridiculous Papers; MSS 321; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John Vaccaro, 2011. The accession number associated with this gift is 2011.321.

Processing Information

Processing decisions made prior to September 2018 have not been recorded.

In September 2018, unprocessed publications, ephemera, and project files were housed in archival folders and boxes.

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Container List

Series I: Projects, 1959-1992. 2.75 Linear Feet in 2 record cartons, 1 manuscript box, and 1 half manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

Series I: Projects contains the work of John Vaccaro and others. Materials inculde press clippings, screenplays, contracts, and ephemera generally related to the titular project. Materials date from 1959 to 1992.

Arrangement

Series I: Projects is organized alphabetically by project title.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 American Indians N.A.T.E.
1973
Box: 1 Folder : 2 "American Indians (Niagara Falls)"
1973, 1981
Box: 1 Folder : 3 "Article About Cino etc."
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Big Hotel
Ludlam, Charles -- History-Sources
1967
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Body Indian I and II
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 "The Book of Etiquette"
1986
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Cara Pina Script
1992
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Cockstrong
1971
Box: 1 Folder : 9 "Colleges (Lectures)"
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Conquest of the Universe Script
Undated
Box: 11 Folder : 1 Conquest of the Universe Contract
1967
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Conquest of the Universe 1 of 2
1967
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Conquest of the Universe 2 of 2
1967, 1968
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Derby Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 14 The Derby
1980
Box: 11 Folder : 2 The Destruction of Atlantis Rehersal
1965
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Dr. Magico
1973, 1979
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Etiquette Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Etiquette Revival
1978, 1986
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Evergreen Review
1969
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Flop
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Flop Script
1973
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Goatman
1985
Box: 1 Folder : 22 Goatman Script
1984
Box: 1 Folder : 23 Graven Image Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 24 Graven Image
1980
Box: 1 Folder : 25 Gulliver's Travels Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 26 Gulliver's Travels
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 27 The Heart That Eats Itself
1987
Box: 1 Folder : 28 The Heart That Eats Itself Script
1987
Box: 1 Folder : 29 Heaven Grand 1 of 2
1969-1976
Box: 1 Folder : 30 Heaven Grand 2 of 2
1969 - 1976
Box: 1 Folder : 31 Heaven Grand Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 32 "Indira Gandhi"
1966, 1967
Box: 1 Folder : 33 Indira Gandhi's Daring Device Script
1965, 1966
Box: 1 Folder : 34 Juba
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 35 Juba Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 36 La Bohemia
1974
Box: 11 Folder : 3 Lady Godiva Contract
1969
Box: 1 Folder : 37 La Fin Du Cirque Script
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 38 La Fin Du Cirque
1984
Box: 2 Folder : 1 La Justice Script
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 2 "Le Justice"
1979
Box: 2 Folder : 3 The Life of Lady Godiva
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Midsummer Night's Dream
1980
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Miscellaneous
1959 - 1986
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Moke-Eater
1968
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Moke-Eater Script
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Monkeys of the Organ Grinder
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 9 The New Yorker
1976
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Night Club Script
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Night Club
1970
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Nutcracker
1979
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Persia 1 of 2
1972
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Persia 2 of 2
Undated
Box: 11 Folder : 4 Persia Notebook
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 15 Pineapple Face
1992
Box: 2 Folder : 16 Play With an Ending
1984
Box: 2 Folder : 17 Play With an Ending Script
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 18 Primitive World
1984
Box: 2 Folder : 19 Primitive World Script
1983
Box: 2 Folder : 20 Room 17C Script
1983, 1984
Box: 11 Folder : 5 Rosalyn Drexler
2003-2004
Box: 2 Folder : 21 Satyricon
1972
Box: 2 Folder : 22 "Screen Test/Juanita Castro/Screen Test II"
1965, 1966
Box: 2 Folder : 23 "Shower/Juanita Castro"
1965
Box: 2 Folder : 24 Sissy Script
1971
Box: 2 Folder : 25 Sissy
1971
Box: 2 Folder : 26 The Sixty Minute Queer Show
1977, 1978
Box: 2 Folder : 27 The Sixty Minute Queer Show Script
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 28 Son of Cockstrong Script
1969
Box: 2 Folder : 29 Son of Cockstrong
1970
Box: 2 Folder : 30 "Songs from Cockstrong, Heaven Grand, Son of Cockstrong"
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 31 Spiders
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 32 Starburn
1983
Box: 2 Folder : 33 Starburn Script
1982
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Theater, Winter 1985
1985
Box: 3 Folder : 2 The Theatre in Poland
1972
Box: 3 Folder : 3 "Three Plays at New Theatre by K. Bernard"
1969
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Torino Festival
1991 - 1992
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Transients Welcome
1985
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Vulgar Lives
1979
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Vulgar Lives Script
1978
Box: 3 Folder : 8 The Writer's Opera
1979
Box: 3 Folder : 9 The Writer's Opera Script 1 of 2
Undated
Box: 3 Folder : 10 The Writer's Opera Script 2 of 2
Undated
Box: 3 Folder : 11 "XX XXX"
1970 - 1972

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Series II: Posters and Ephemera, 1981-2005. 1 Linear Feet in 3 flat boxes and 1 half manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

Series II: Posters and Ephemera contains posters, publicity material, objects, and a scrapbook. All the materials relate to Vaccaro's theatrical productions and his work with with the Play-House of the Ridiculous. Materials date from 1981 to 2005.

Arrangement

Series II: Posters and Ephemera is organized alphabetically by production title or the name of the institution.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 1 Big Hotel Poster
Undated
Box: 11 Folder : 6 Etiquette Posters
undated
Box: 11 Folder : 7 Goodie Pamphlet
undated
Box: 8 Folder : 2 The Heart That Eats Itself
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 3 Indira Gandhi/Screen Test Poster
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 4 Indira Gandhi Poster
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 5 Kenneth Bernard "American Drama" article
2005
Box: 8 Folder : 6 Lady Godiva Poster
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 7 Life of Lady Godiva Poster (alternate)
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 8 La Fin Du Cirque
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 9 A Matter of Life and Death
1986
Box: 8 Folder : 10 Moke-Eater Poster
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 11 Nightclub Posters
1981
Box: 8 Folder : 12 No President Poster
Undated
Box: 5 Otto Award
2002
Box: 5 Play-House of the Ridiculous Embosser
undated
Box: 5 Play-House of the Ridiculous Stamp
undated
Box: 11 Folder : 8 Play-House of the Ridiculous Repertory Club Membership Cards
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Scrapbook
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 13 Sharon Thompson Piece
1970
Box: 8 Folder : 14 Untitled Double-Sided Sketch
Undated
Box: 8 Folder : 15 Young American Beatnicks Poster
Undated

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Series III: Photographs, undated. 1.5 Linear Feet in 2 manuscript boxes and 2 flat boxes.

Scope and Contents

Series III: Photographs contains photographs, contact sheets, negatives, and slides pertaining to Vaccaro's productions and personal collection. Most of the people and plays in the photographs in the collection are unidentified at this time. Materials are undated.

Arrangement

Series III: Photographs has not been arranged by an archivist. The materials are arranged in the order in which they were received from Vaccaro.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Daniel Nagrin
Undated
Box: 6 Folder : 2-11 Photographs (unsorted)
Undated
Box: 7A Folder : 1-4 Photographs (unsorted)
Undated
Box: 7B Folder : 1 Fred Ohrenstein Photo of John Vaccaro
Undated
Box: 7B Folder : 2 Starburn Photos (1 of 2)
Undated
Box: 7B Folder : 3 Starburn Photos 2 of 2
Undated
Box: 7B Folder : 4-7 Photographs (unsorted)
Undated
Box: 14 Folder : 15 Photographs (unsorted)
undated

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Series IV: Publications, 1964-2005. 2 Linear Feet in 1 record carton, 1 manuscript box, 1 half manuscript box, and 1 flat box.

Scope and Contents

Series IV: Publications contains monographs, exhibition catalogs, journals, and magazines. The publications were collected by John Vaccaro and are related to theater and music. Some of the publications contain articles about Vaccarro and his work. Materials date from 1964 to 2005. Most of the publications are in English, with a few in French, German, Italian, and Dutch.

Arrangement

Series IV: Publications has not been arranged by an archivist. The materials are arranged in the order in which they were received from the donor.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 11 Folder : 9 (Mixed Materials [31142062723229]) Publications
Box: 12
Box: 13
Box: 14 Folder : 1-14 (Mixed Materials [31142062723245])

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Oversize - Series I: Projects, 1966-1985. 0.5 Linear Feet in 1 oversize flat box.

Scope and Contents

Oversize Series I: Projects contains oversize material related to theatrical productions. Materials date from 1966 to 1985.

Arrangement

Oversize Series I: Projects is arranged alphabetically.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 10 Folder : 1 "American Indians N.A.T.E."
1973
Box: 10 Folder : 2 "American Indians (Niagara Falls)"
1981
Box: 10 Folder : 3 Cockstrong
1971
Box: 10 Folder : 4 Conquest of the Universe
1967
Box: 10 Folder : 5 Dr. Magico
1973
Box: 10 Folder : 6 Goatman
1985
Box: 10 Folder : 7 Heaven Grand
1976
Box: 10 Folder : 8 "Indira Gandhi"
1966. 1967
Box: 10 Folder : 9 Juba
1978
Box: 10 Folder : 10 The Life of Lady Godiva [newspapers]
1969
Box: 10 Folder : 11 Miscellaneous [more newspapers]
1969 - 1976
Box: 10 Folder : 12 Satyricon
1972
Box: 10 Folder : 13 Sissy
1971
Box: 10 Folder : 14 The Sixty Minute Queer Show
1977
Box: 10 Folder : 15 "XX XXX"
Undated

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Oversize - Series II: Posters and Ephemera, 1961-1979. 0.5 Linear Feet in 2 oversize flat boxes and 2 flat file folders.

Scope and Contents

Oversize Series II: Posters and Ephemera contains posters and publicity material related to Vaccaro's theatrical productions. Materials date from 1961 to 1979.

Arrangement

Oversize Series II: Posters and Ephemera is arranged alphabetically.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Folder: 5 Cockstrong de Tom Murrin Poster
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 1 The Derby
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 2 Graven Image Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 3 Gulliver's Travels Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 4 Juba Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 5 La Bohemia Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 6 "Lady Cockstrong" Drawing
1971
Box: 9 Folder : 7 La Justice Poster
1979
Box: 9 Folder : 8 La Fin Du Cirque Character Drawings
Undated
Box: 10 Folder : 16 La Mama Posters
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 9 A Midsummer Night's Dream Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 10 Miscellaneous
Undated
Box: 10 Folder : 17 "Persia" (A Desert Cheapie) Posters
undated
Box: 9 Folder : 11 "Pugliese" Drawing
1961
Box: 9 Folder : 12 The Sixty Minute Queer Show Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 13 The Sixty Minute Queer Show Poster (Dutch)
1977, 1978
Box: 10 Folder : 18 Theater Im Reichskabarett Poster
1973
Box: 9 Folder : 14 Untitled Stage Sketch
1979
Box: 9 Folder : 15 Vulgar Lives Poster
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 16 Vulgar Lives Poster (alternate)
Undated
Box: 9 Folder : 17 "WELL LOVE WILL EAT THE WORLD WILL BE PEACEFUL WILL EAT SHIT" Drawing
October 1969
Box: 9 Folder : 18 The Writer's Opera Poster
Undated
Folder: 14 Object : 321.2.0001 The Life of Lady Godiva, the Playhouse of Ridiculous

General

Poster painted on wood.

Undated

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