Theatre writer David Kaufman's exhaustive biography of Charles Ludlam, the playwright and actor who founded The Ridiculous Theatrical Company, will be released by Applause Books on Dec. 2.
The nearly 500-page tome covers the entire life and career of Ludlam, who died in 1987 of AIDS at the young age of 44. By the time of his death, he had overseen for two decades the creative output of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, the outrageous and influential troupe he founded in New York City in 1967.
Ludlam penned most of the plays which RTC produced, including such noteworthy successes as Bluebeard, Camille and The Mystery of Irma Vep. The company's productions were known for their outlandish brand of camp melodrama and gender-bending performances. Ludlam typically starred, often in drag and in fantastical, over-the-top costumes and make-up. Among the other RTC regulars were Bill Vehr, Christopher Scott, Black-Eyed Susan, Lola Pashalinksi, Steven Samuels, and Everett Quinton, who would run the theatre for a few years following Ludlam's death.
In preparation for the biography, which he began 12 years ago, Kaufman interviewed all the above artists, as well as a roll call of downtown theatre personalitites, including Penny Arcade, Eric Bentley, Charles Busch, Ethyl Eichelberger, William Hoffman, Joseph Papp and Ross Wetzsteon.
Kaufman is the former theatre critic for the New York Daily News and has written for the New York Times, The Village Voice and The Nation. —By Robert Simonson