Pioneer of Parody

Encountering sideshow freaks at a Long Island county fair as a child inspired Charles Ludlam’s fascination with the grotesque. Later in life, he took his love of the abhorrent, mashed it up with camp and sexual ambiguity, and wrote nearly 30 plays for the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Founded in 1967, the company churned out genre- and gender-bending satire that some have compared to Molière, Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe. Ludlam wrote, produced, directed, and starred in (generally in drag) nearly all of the plays. Cult favorites such as The Mystery of Irma Vep and Turds in Hell parodied art and life — mainstream as well as counterculture — and earned the company a cache of feverishly loyal fans, especially among the queer community in Manhattan. His films are similarly twisted works of poignant, hilarious, and strangely beautiful urban antics. “Totally Ridiculous” is a retrospective of his rarely seen films — two of which remained unfinished before his death from AIDS in 1987. Tonight’s screening is of a silent film, The Sorrows of Dolores, a largely unedited opus starring his partner and muse, Everett Quinton, who shines as an innocent young girl ravaged by a sadistic mother, a devious city, and even King Kong. Preceding the feature is the short film Museum of Wax starring Ludlam as a bisexual fugitive. In Saturday night’s screening, The Imposter (1979), Ludlam plays a gay magician in New York City.
Sept. 24-26, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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