Apr 23, 2016

Coffeehouse Chronicles #134: Gabriel Berry — Costume Work 1979-1985

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Featuring an introduction by TAYLOR MAC

Discussion and Performance with BLACK-EYED SUSAN

Discussions with GABRIEL BERRY featuring:

Set and Costume Designer PAUL STEINBERG



GABRIEL BERRY was in a castle in Budapest (then a workers’ museum) overlooking the Danube when a voice spoke to her.”Go to New York and be a costume designer” it instructed. OK, she thought. Good idea.  it was late 1978. She got the next train out of town, made her way back to her home in North Carolina, packed her bags and moved to New York. She arrived in early 1979. She moved into a loft on The Bowery sharing space with musicians, dancers and painters. Within a few months she met Ellen Stewart, made her New York debut designing the costumes for Charles Ludlam’s The Enchanted Pig and became the costume designer in residence at LaMaMa E.T.C. A list of artists she collaborated with at this time includes John Albano, Christopher Alden, Ken Bernard, Ed Bullins, Du-Yee Chang, Donald Eastman, Tom Eyen, Maria Irene Fornes, Ron Link, Mabou Mines, Robert MacBeth, Leonard Melfi, Anne Militello, Tom O’Horgan, Robert Patrick, James Rado, Gerry Ragni, Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Julie Taymor,  John Vaccaro, Mac Wellman and Mel Wong. Companies and venues included Coney Island USA, Dance Theater Workshop,  Danceteria, The Pyramid Club, The Ridiculous Theatrical Company Theater For the New City and ,of course, LaMaMa.

MICHAEL ARIAN‘s life and education began when, in 1967 as a 19 year old, he won an ABC Network scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After not being asked back for year two of the scholarship, creative thinking brought him to a job where he met Kenny Hill. Kenita-as he came to be called brought him to La Mama for the first time to see a Jackie Curtis play. Finding it the funniest thing ever-he soon joined the company beginning 18 years of working in NYC and touring all around Europe with The Playhouse of the Ridiculous and La Mama where he had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel Berry. Including work at Theater for a New City, La Mama, Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte and Off-Broadway, he counts his association and touring with Hair in Germany and Spain and the various authors and actors he met here and abroad as being some the best things that ever happened to him all coming out of his association with La Mama and the great Ellen Stewart.

DONALD EASTMAN’s work has been seen at major theatre and opera companies across America and in our neighborhood where he is a frequent collaborator at La MaMa. He made his debut here with 3 Solo Pieces by Winston Tong and has since designed for Tom Eyen, Ellen Stewart, James Neu, Theodora Skipitares, Michael Gorman and George Ferencz. Donald received an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence in Set Design and is a grantee of the NEA.

It’s hard to know where to begin AGOSTO MACHADO‘s CV. We have learned over the years of the Coffeehouse Chronicles that he has an intimate knowledge of and connection to nearly every speaker and group presented. Among his favorites he names Jeff Weiss, H.M. Koutoukas, Jackie Curtis, Jim Neu, Charles Allcroft, Chris Tanner and the late Great Ethyl Eichelberger. Plus he does a wicked good impersonation of the late Ellen Stewart……………….

Gabriel first got to work with TAYLOR MAC designing costumes for his play Hir at Playwrights Horizons. She sees him as a living connection to the past world of Ridiculous theater. He gives her hope for the future. Taylor Mac is an actor, playwright, performance artist, director, producer and singer-song writer. Taylor’s play The Walk Across America for Mother Earth was produced to great acclaim at La MaMa in 2011. In 2014 he appeared in the Foundry Theatre’s production of Good Person of Szechewan in the La Mama Annex.”

LOLA PASHALINSKI is a founding member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company where, with writer/director Charles Ludlam, she created 17 roles in 13 years.  She received two Obie awards for her work with the company. Since leaving the Ridiculous in 1980, Lola worked extensively Off-Broadway and regionally in productions directed by Lee Breuer, Richard Foreman, JoAnne Akalaitis, Les Waters, Anne Bogart, David Gordon, Neil Bartlett, among others. With her life-partner Linda Chapman, she wrote and performed GERTRUDE AND ALICE: A Likeness toLoving, receiving her third Obie in 2000. Lola made her Broadway debut in FORTUNE’S FOOL with the late Alan Bates. She’s appeared in many films and on television, including most recently EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE directed by Stephen Daldry.  

BLACK-EYED SUSAN is an original member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company and received a Villager Award and an Obie for Sustained Achievement for her work with the Company. She has also appeared in productions by Ethyl Eichelberger, Stuart Sherman, Mabou Mines, Roslyn Drexler, Jim Neu, Charles Allcroft, Samuel Beckett, Stephanie Fleischmann, John Jahnke, Christina Campanella/Stephanie Fleischmann, and Mallory Catlett.

American designer PAUL STEINBERG studied at the Pratt Institute and Central Saint Martins. He collaborates regularly with opera directors Christopher Alden,  David Alden, Robert Carsen and Richard Jones. His work has been commissioned  by companies including the English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Netherlands National Opera, The Bavarian State Opera, Paris Opera, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera. Steinberg is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. He is an Arts Professor in the graduate theatre design program at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

CHING VALDES-ARAN started out as a dancer and has evolved into acting/directing. She has worked internationally, regionally and extensively in NYC on Broadway/Off-Broadway/Off-Off Broadway and guest starred in numerous films, television and music videos mostly recently in the last album of the late David Bowie. Awards include the OBIE, The Fox Foundation Fellowship, The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatist, the Asian Cultural Council Writing Fellowship, the Spencer Cherashore Award,  Ma-Yi Theater’s Award for Artistic Excellence, PACCAL’s Leadership Award for Arts & Theatre and a U.S. Congressional Award in Art and Culture. Ching is a member of the Actors’ Center Workshop Company, the NYTW Usual Suspect, and the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab and serves in the advisory board of Ma-Yi Theater Company.  She is also a painter.

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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