Charles Ludlam

Charles Ludlam
Charles Ludlam
Born April 12, 1943(1943-04-12)
Floral Park, New York, United States
Died May 28, 1987(1987-05-28) (aged 44)
New York, New York, United States
Partner Everett Quinton

Charles Braun Ludlam (April 12, 1943 – May 28, 1987) was an American actor, director, and playwright.



Early life

Ludlam was born in Floral Park, New York, the son of Marjorie (née Braun) and Joseph William Ludlam.[1][2] He was raised in Greenlawn, New York, on Long Island, and attended Harborfields High School. The fact that he was gay was not a secret. He performed locally in plays with the Township Theater Group, Huntington's community theater, and worked backstage at the Red Barn Theater, a summer stock company in Northport. While he was in his senior year of high school, he directed, produced and performed in Madman on the Roof by Kan Kikuchi, Theatre of the Soul [1], their own Readers' Theater adaptation of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, as well as plays by August Strindberg and Eugene O'Neill with a group of friends, students from Huntington, Northport, Greenlawn, and Centerport. Their "Students Repertory Theatre" in the loft studio beneath the Posey School of Dance on Northport's Main Street was large enough to seat an audience of 25; their audiences were appreciative and enthusiastic, and the house was sold out for every performance. He received a degree in dramatic literature from Hofstra University in 1964, by which time he had officially come out.


Ludlam joined John Vaccaro's Play-House of the Ridiculous, and after a falling out, became founder of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York City in 1967. His first plays were inchoate exercises: however, starting with Bluebeard he began to write more structured works, which, though they were pastiches of gothic novels, Lorca, Shakespeare, Wagner, popular culture, old movies, and anything else that might get a laugh, had more serious import. Theater critic Brendan Gill after seeing one of Ludlam's plays famously remarked, "This isn't farce. This isn't absurd. This is absolutely ridiculous!". Ludlam usually appeared in his plays, and was particularly noted for his female roles. He wrote one of the first plays to deal (though tangentially) with HIV infection; he was diagnosed with AIDS in March 1987. He attempted to fight the disease by putting his life-long interest in health foods and macrobiotic diet to use. He died of PCP pneumonia in St. Vincent's Hospital, New York. The street in front of his theatre in Sheridan Square was renamed "Charles Ludlam Lane" in his honor.

Ludlam taught or staged productions at New York University, Connecticut College for Women, Yale University, and Carnegie Mellon University. He won fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. He won four Obie Awards, the last one 2 weeks before his death, and won the Rosamund Gilder Award for distinguished achievement in the theater in 1986. After his death, "Walter Ego", the ironically named dummy character from Ludlam's play "The Ventriloquist's Wife" was donated to the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, where it remains on exhibit today; the puppet was designed and built by actor and noted puppetmaker Alan Semok.

His most popular play, and the only one to enter the standard repertory, is The Mystery of Irma Vep, in which two actors manage, through a variety of quick-change techniques, to play seven roles in a send-up of gothic horror novels. The original production featuring Ludlam and his lover Everett Quinton was a tour de force. In order to ensure cross-dressing, rights to perform the play include a stipulation that the actors must be of the same sex. In 1991, Irma Vep was the most produced play in the United States; and in 2003, it became the longest-running play ever produced in Brazil.

Plays (as playwright)

  • Big Hotel (1967)
  • Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide (1968)
  • Turds in Hell, an adaptation of The Satyricon (1969)
  • The Grand Tarot (1969)
  • Bluebeard, an adaptation of H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr Moreau (1970)
  • Eunuchs of the Forbidden City (1971)
  • Corn (1972)
  • Camille (1973)
  • Hot Ice (1974)
  • Stage Blood, an adaptation of Hamlet (1975)
  • Tabu Tableaux (1975)
  • Caprice (1976)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Der Ring Gott Farblonjet, an adaptation of The Ring Cycle
  • The Ventriloquist's Wife
  • Utopia, Incorporated
  • The Enchanted Pig
  • Elephant Woman
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Reverse Psychology (1980)
  • Love's Tangled Web (1981)
  • Secret Lives of the Sexists
  • Exquisite Torture
  • Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde, an adaptation of Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
  • The Mystery of Irma Vep (1984)
  • Salammbo (1985), an adaptation of Flaubert's novel of the same name
  • Galas (1983), inspired by the life of Maria Callas
  • The Artificial Jungle (1986]
  • How to Write a Play

Puppet shows

  • Professor Bedlam's Educational Punch and Judy Show
  • Anti-Galaxie Nebulae

Plays (as actor)

  • The Life, Death and Assumption of Lupe Velez by Ronald Tavel (as The Lesbian)
  • The Life of Lady Godiva by Ronald Tavel (as Peeping Tom)
  • Indira Gandhi's Daring Device by Ronald Tavel (as Kamaraj)
  • Screen Test by Ronald Tavel (as Norma Desmond)
  • Hedda Gabler (title role) Pittsburgh (1984)

Plays (as director)

Films (as actor)

  • Lupe (1967)
  • Underground and Emigrants
  • Imposters (1980)
  • Museum of Wax
  • Doomed Love (1983)
  • The Big Easy (1987)
  • Forever, Lulu (1987)
  • She Must Be Seeing Things (1988)

Television (as actor)

  • Miami Vice
  • Tales from the Dark Side
  • Oh, Madeline!

Further reading

  • Ludlam, Charles, Ridiculous Theatre: Scourge of Human Folly: The Essays and Opinions of Charles Ludlam, edited by Steven Samuels, 1992. ISBN 1-55936-041-0
  • Ludlam, Charles, The Complete Plays of Charles Ludlam, edited by Steven Samuels. ISBN 0-06-055172-0
  • Kaufman, David A., Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, 2002. ISBN 1-55783-588-8
  • Roemer, Rick, Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company: Critical Analyses of 29 Plays by Rick Roemer, 1998. ISBN 0-7864-0340-3
  • Baron, Michael, The Whore of Sheridan Square (a play inspired by the life of Charles Ludlam) in Plays and Playwrights 2006 An Anthology, edited by Martin Denton, 2006. ISBN 09670234-7-5


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles Ludlam — (* 12. April 1943 in Floral Park, Long Island, New York; † 28. Mai 1987 in New York) war ein US amerikanischer Film und Theaterschauspieler, Dramatiker und bedeutender Independent Theatermacher in New York. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ludlam — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alfred Ludlam (1810–1877), neuseeländischer Politiker Charles Ludlam (1943–1987), US amerikanischer Schauspieler Scott Ludlam (* 1970), australischer Politiker Ludlam (Florida) ist ein Ort in Florida, USA …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ludlam Island — is a barrier island in southern New Jersey, on which Sea Isle City, and Strathmere, a part of Upper Township are located.Joseph Ludlam purchased the island in the late 1600s, and grazed cows and sheep on it. In the 1880s, developer Charles K.… …   Wikipedia

  • Ludlam Road — Ludlam Road, locally known as either Ludlam Road and Northwest or Southwest 67th Avenue, is a north south street that runs west of downtown Miami in Miami Dade County, Florida.The southern terminus is inside the Charles Deering Estate Historic… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles K. Landis — Charles Kline Landis (March 16, 1833 June 12, 1900) was a property developer in South Jersey, who was the founder and developer of Vineland and Sea Isle City.[1] Landis was born in Philadelphia to Michael G. and Mary L. Landis and was educated as …   Wikipedia

  • Ludlam's Beach Light — Infobox Lighthouse caption = The former lighthouse as a private residence in 2005. location = Sea Isle City, New Jersey coordinates = yearbuilt = 1885 yearlit = 1885 automated = 1924 (skeleton tower) yeardeactivated = 1924 (original structure)… …   Wikipedia

  • The Mystery of Irma Vep — is a play in two acts by Charles Ludlam. A penny dreadful, Irma Vep is a satire of several theatrical and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce and the Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca (1940). The name Irma Vep is an anagram for vampire …   Wikipedia

  • Florida Playwrights' Theatre — or FPT was a 54 seat black box theatre in Hollywood, Florida that was in operation from 1993 to 1999. It was begun by Paul and Angela Thomas, whose goal was to create a small repertory company that would produce new plays and little known plays,… …   Wikipedia

  • Axis Theatre Company — The Axis Theatre Company is a theatre company in New York, working at a theatre at 1 Sheridan Square.This theatre has a long history as a vibrant, varied West Village performance space. Built in 1834 by Samuel Whitmore, it wasn t until the 1930s… …   Wikipedia

  • Defiant Theatre — was a Chicago based theatre company founded in 1993 by a group of students from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The eclectic troupe specialized in productions that emphasized inventive stagecraft, perverse and controversial topics …   Wikipedia

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