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Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam Hardcover – October 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1557835888 ISBN-10: 1557835888 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557835888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557835888
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Founder of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company and winner of theater awards and accolades, playwright/actor/director Ludlam epitomized off-Broadway theater with all its edginess, verve and camp. Ludlam, who died from AIDS in 1987 at age 44, founded his company at 23, was profiled in the New Yorker at 33 and wrote scores of plays before his death. The acting pioneer careened like a juggernaut through the theater world, invoking adoration, acclaim and ire. Openly gay before it was acceptable, Ludlam remained a contradiction: his plays addressed sexual taboos, and Ludlam himself often acted in drag; yet while touring in San Francisco, his dismissive comments about the gay community raised protests, and he kept his illness secret until his death. With devotion, depth and dishiness, critic Kaufman has turned a 1989 Interview article into a decade-long love affair with his subject. The resultant chronology of Ludlam's life from humble Long Island birth to premature death reads like backstage gossip. Fanatically detailed-with over 150 interviews with Ludlam's friends, family, lovers and colleagues; excerpts from his plays, letters and journals; and commentary from critics-the book portrays not merely the man but his era, explicating Ludlam as more than a product of the 1960s' revolutionary sexuality, politics and art: a shaper of attitudes and ideas sexual, theatrical and artistic. Kaufman's assiduously researched work is at times heavy going, but will surely hold theatergoers' interest. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1967, Ludlam founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, famous for its over-the-top productions filled with gender-bending roles, sex, and drug use. Drawing on more than ten years of research (including interviews with Ridiculous stalwarts and Ludlam's cohorts and ex-lovers), Kaufman, a veteran New York theater journalist, describes this influential playwright and actor's flamboyant life and work in riveting fashion. Ludlam's odd, strict, Catholic household and childhood, the creation and success of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and his death from AIDS in 1987 are all well rendered. Some of the best portions feature engrossing letters that Ludlam wrote to intimates, balanced by their own comments about him. Kaufman's book complements several other existing works on Ludlam and his company, including Rick Roemer's Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company: Critical Analyses of 29 Plays and Ludlam and Steven Samuels's Ridiculous Theatre: Scourge of Human Folly; The Essays and Opinions of Charles Ludlam. Highly recommended for theater and communications libraries.
David M. Lisa, Wayne P.L., NJ
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Ludlam's life. The author does a terrific job explaining the origins of both Ludlam's talent and his powerful (and often exasperating) personality. Of course, the book can't be as much fun as the shows were, but it is nonetheless an exciting and full account of one of the true originals of our theatrical times. I do agree with the reviewer who says that a postscript about the Ridiculous post-Ludlam would have been nice, but the book still deserves the highest praise for capturing a tricky subject so clearly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book reminded me of sitting in the cramped Sheridan Square theatre watching Ludlam and his cronies perform--sometimes the performances were magical, but just as often I was more frustrated than excited by the all-too evident rough edges. There are problems with this book that should have been addressed by the editor, just as a more objective director could have improved some of those ridiculous Ridiculous evenings.
The design, which eschews traditional punctutation such as indented paragraphs, is difficult and unpleasant to read, because it doesn't allow the narrtive to flow. Much of the writing is repetitous, as Ludlam's passive-agressive directing technique is detailed again and again for each show.
But the biggest flaw is a lack of an epilogue to update the lives of the book's vivid "supporting cast" (Black-Eyed Susan, Lola Pashalinski, Bill Vehr, the late Christopher Scott, and most important, Everett Quinton, who became an icon of the off-off-Broadway movement himself with his later perfomances in Irma Vep and Camille. Are they still performing or are they out of the business? (P.S. Pashalinski was just in a theatre piece about the changing lives of actresses.) I know that the book is about the life of Ludlam and not the ridiculous theatre movement in general, but this reader felt cheated by the amount of time spent getting to know Ludlam's actors in print, only to have them disappear at the book's final scene, the memorial performance.
Also needed is information about about the few shows that the Ridiculous produced after Ludlam.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John on February 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A disappointment. Kaufman gets the facts, but misses the spirit. To be sure, any biographer of Ludlam is up against a lot. The main problem is that a lot of the man's art existed "at the vanishing point," that is to say, in performance. Ludlam was above all, an inspired actor, and acting (HIS acting) and style took precedence over everything (he gave the world no great plays, and his company consisted of weak, noncompetive actors). Capturing a performance in words is very difficult, and Kaufman has no aptitude for it. Further,he is too much the fan. Though he acknowledges all of CL's personal and professional faults, his admiration always guides the direction of the book and we never quite get the man whole, or any explanation of why we should admire him. The most one can say is that Kaufman has gathered the information necessary for others to assess Ludlam's quality and his contribution to theatre.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ludlam was probably one of the most important and influential figures in American theater over the last hundred years. But sources of information on his work and life have been fragmentary at best.
At last a comprehensive book on Ludlam. This book corrects a lot of the gossip and is more insightful on the relationship between an artists life and work than nearly any other biography I have ever read. This book is refreshingly frank--even on the shortcomings of its sources. Really an astonishingly sharp look at an underdocumented corner of our culture.
I heard the author speak a few years back and the book was completed then but could not find a publisher. I am baffled as to why since this is such a superior piece of work.
Not to be read while drinking egg drop soup.
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