Feb 3, 2024

Coffeehouse Chronicles #173: The ETC Company

Coffeehouse Chronicles #173: The ETC Company

Curated by Michal Gamily
Moderated by Susan Haskins Doloff
N.C. Heikin, Don Arrington, Camille Tibaldeo, Audrey Lavine, Bill Ruyle, Michael Sirotta, Kat Yew, Mel Howard, Carlos Mena, more to be announced
a black arrow pointing downward

The ETC Company was a resident company of La MaMa from 1970–1974, directed by Wilford Leach and John Braswell. The company performed several productions—including Carmilla, Gertrude, Demon, Renard, and The Only Jealousy of Emer, among others—and toured Denmark, Spain, Italy, Holland, France, and Austria.

All photos are courtesy of the La MaMa Archive.

Above: Nancy Heikin and Margaret Benczak in Wilford Leach's "Carmilla" (1970)
Below: Susan Haskins-Doloff in 1974, appearing as “Nurse Howell” in Wilford Leach’s C.O.R.F.A.X. (Don’t Ask)

Curated by Michal Gamily
Moderated by Susan Haskins Doloff

N.C. Heikin, Don Arrington, Camille Tibaldeo, Audrey Lavine, Bill Ruyle, Michael Sirotta, Kat Yew, Mel Howard, Carlos Mena, more to be announced

Susan Haskins-Doloff attended Sarah Lawrence College where she studied theater with John Braswell and Wilford Leach. Once the duo formed their ETC company at La MaMa, they conscripted Susan to work there, initially painting scenery. Following her SLC graduation, Ellen Stewart extended Susan’s stay, off-and-on for over 11 years, during which she worked various jobs, including box office attendant, set designer and performer. Ellen Stewart appointed Susan the Art Director of La MaMa in the 80’s, a job for which she created and/or produced season flyers and other visuals for La MaMa’s theaters and for La MaMa Galleria, where she also exhibited some of her paintings. In 1993, Susan co-created Inside Broadway, a weekly conversation series on public access television for which she was the Executive Producer and co-host. Having learned from Ellen Stewart how to oversee a not-for-profit, she and her colleagues created Theater Talk Productions to generate support for the show. In 1996 Susan pitched the series to NYC’s PBS station Thirteen/WNET. They took it, and the program, renamed Theater Talk, remained on their air for 22 years (with over 700 half-hour shows produced under Susan’s supervision), eventually going into national syndication, as well. In 2017 and 2019, Theater Talk won New York Emmys for Best Interview/Discussion series, the second one coming shortly after Susan and the board had retired the series from weekly production. Also in 2019, Susan was inducted into the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences’ New York chapter’s Silver Circle Society, honoring her over 25 years of “distinguished service to the television industry.” This path would not have been open to Susan without her prior years at La MaMa learning the way from Ellen Stewart.

NC Heikin is an award winning filmmaker and Sundance Fellow. Before turning to film, Heikin had an active career in the New York theatre, working extensively as both creator and performer on Broadway and off Broadway at La MaMa and The Public Theatre. She made her film directing debut with the multiple prize-winning French narrative comic short, mañana, produced by Gabrielle Tana. Her first documentary Kimjongilia, about North Korean refugees and dissidents, premiered at Sundance 2009, won the One World Human Rights Award, played all major European cities as well as South Korea, Viet Nam and Cambodia, and streamed on Netflix until 2018. International bestselling author Michael Connelly produced her critically acclaimed film Sound of Redemption, The Frank Morgan Story, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2014, and theatrically in 2015. It has a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While filming Sound of Redemption Heikin met the subject of her current documentary Life & Life, about a convicted murderer, which asks, “How long is long enough?” It won a 2019 NYSCA grant. In the fall of 2018, NC completed a documentary, Books and Music, and music video, Just the Clothes on my Back, on famed author Lee Child’s collaboration with roots band Naked Blue. Heikin’s screenplay Niki and Joan, about artist Niki de Saint Phalle meeting abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell in 1959, was invited to the European screenwriting lab, eQuinoxe.

Don Arrington has been a fixture of Downtown theater since the seventies, working as an actor and singer with Will Leach and John Braswell's ETC Company of LaMaMa and with John Vaccaro in the Playhouse of the Ridiculous at La MaMa and at Theater for the New City.  He has performed at numerous regional theatres and at The Delacorte Theater with The New York Shakespeare Festival and has appeared in the works of William M. Hoffman, Rosalyn Drexler, Liz Swados and Ken Bernard, among others. As a composer and playwright he has written scores of tunes and incidental music for Downtown theater, including Vaccaro's "Juba".  He is known, in addition to other works, for his musical, "Allegros!," musical revues "If This Ain't It!," "On the Block," dance theater piece, "Without Apparent Motive," and, with librettist Stephan Holt, the one woman opera, "I Love My Voice". He was last seen at Pangea in 2023, with Louisa Bradshaw, in “Had Enuf of the Blues,” a sixty year retrospective of Arrington tunes.  He is currently preparing for production of his new full length play with music, "Cemetery Beach".

Camille Tibaldeo performed in repertory with the ETC Company of La MaMa in New York City and on European and US tours and in revivals of the ETC signature work “Carmilla,” including its 30th Anniversary run directed by Ellen Stewart. She has appeared at La MaMa and other venues in productions directed or produced by Michael Bennett, John Braswell, María Irene Fornés, Tom O’Horgan, and John Vaccaro, as well as in regional theatre and cabaret throughout the Northeast. Camille has had the pleasure of performing in numerous original musical theatre pieces created by fellow ETC member Don Arrington at La MaMa and Theater for the New City, and with Don in two-person shows of his works at the club Pangea.

AUDREY LAVINE:  Broadway & Off: Carrie, Rags, Moony Shapiro Songbook, Annie Warbucks, Pirates of Penzance, Nunsense, The Heebie Jeebies, Love in Two Countries, Romance in Hard Times, Playing House/A Doll’s House, Brecht on Brecht and four revivals of Carmilla at La Mama ETC.  Regional: Tintypes (Anna Held), Pump Boys & Dinettes (Rhetta Cupp), Cowgirls (Jo, Carbonell Award nominee), Rhapsody in Gershwin (soloist) at the Kennedy Center, and more.  Graduate UC-CCM.  Bistro & MAC Award winner. Solo recordings, “This is No Dream” and “At Home With Arlen.”

Bill Ruyle has been a percussionist/composer/collaborator in NYC and abroad for over forty years. He has played in the ensembles of Peter Zummo, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Bill Obrecht, Scott Johnson, Steve Elson, Bob Een, Phillip Jonston, “Blue” Gene Tyranny, Bob Een, Naaz Hosseini, The Feetwarmers, The Manhattan Marimba Quartet, Last Forever with Dick Connette and Sonya Cohen, Newband, The Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Bear 54 and Mitra Sumara. He played hammered dulcimer and percussion for the Broadway show Spiderman: Turn off the Dark among many other fine projects. He was one of the original musicians for the La MaMa production of The Trojan Women in 1974.

Michael Sirotta (Musical Director) has worked internationally with symphony orchestras, chamber music groups, and with theater and dance companies. He was principal tympanist for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, principal percussionist for the Erick Hawkins Dance Theater, and has performed with African village drummers, with dancers and singers of the Sioux nation and with the Italian folkloric ensemble, I Giullari di Piazza. He has been a musical figure at La Mama since 1983, directing, performing and composing music for the Great Jones Repertory Company and was Ellen Stewart’s personal musical director for all productions in her Greek canon from 1984 to her final show, Asclepius in 2010. With Ellen he composed and directed the musical accompaniments at theater festivals throughout Europe (including the 2006 Venice Biennale) and Asia, as well as for the theater’s New York seasons. He has received two nominations for “outstanding musical score” from New York’s Innovative Theater Awards organization.

Ed Di Lello is an indie singer/songwriter and composer in New York City.  Under the name EDDIE D AND THE GUARANTEE he records and releases his original songs, which are available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and most other streaming services. More info at eddiedandtheguarantee.com. As a composer, choreographer, theater director, dancer and actor, Ed’s work has been seen at numerous downtown New York venues (including the Cubiculo and Dance Theater Workshop), the American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow,  Harvard Summer Dance and on WNYC-TV. Ed performed with the E.T.C. in 1972 in its New York season and European tour, appearing in Demon (The Damask Drum) and Carmilla and occasionally playing drums.

Kat Yew is a member of The Great Jones Rep at La MaMa. She has toured Asia and Europe with The Great Jones Rep under the direction of Ellen Stewart and has performed for crowds from Taipei to The Venice Biennale. As a composer, her compositions have been featured for productions at La MaMa, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Theater for the New City.

Carlos Mena comes from a family of professional musicians and continues to honor his family tradition to this day. He began playing music professionally as a percussionist when he was seven years old with acclaimed folk musicians from South America. He soon discovered his passion for the bass and made it his primary instrument upon which to hone his musicianship and technique. Carlos is a multi-instrumentalist who plays electric bass, acoustic bass, guitar, piano, and small percussion. He is an accomplished soloist, arranger, music director, and composer and has become a highly sought-after performer, playing alongside many renowned musicians in NYC and abroad.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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