The New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) will present the American premiere of the Quentin Crisp story, Resident Alien, beginning preview performances Jan. 5. The show opens Jan. 18. and stars Bette Bourne. Based on the “life, writings and musings” of Quentin Crisp, the self- proclaimed “stately homo of England,” Resident Alien represents a “literary dramatic tribute to a genuine icon of the East Village.”
Crisp was born on Christmas Day, 1908, in suburban London. He later moved to London where he pursued a singular dedication — “making the existence of homosexuality abundantly clear to the world’s aborigines.” In London, Crisp supported himself as a prostitute, a book illustrator and, for more than three decades, as an art school model supplementing his income with a government stipend. It was this arrangement that inspired the title of his popular 1968 autobiography, “The Naked Civil Servant.”
Crisp’s wit was infectious: Of his own difficult times he wrote, “At length, almost by chance, he stood in for a friend who was an art school model and, finding that effort didn’t cause him to collapse, he took up posing as a career. With this way of life he struggled on for 35 years.”
Another chief ambition in Crisp’s life was to move to New York. Settling on the Lower East Side, he achieved success with a one-man show, An Evening with Quentin Crisp (1978) and later wrote several books including “How to Have a Life-Style” (1979), “Doing It With Style” (1981), “How to Become a Virgin” (1981) “Manners from Heaven” (1984) and “How to Go to the Movies” (1989). A “prominent resident of the East Village, a perpetual downtown fixture and international celebrity,” Crisp remained committed to a routine of accepting dining excursions, invitations and requests for interviews in “exchange for lunch.” Crisp died in his sleep at 90, in Manchester, England, before being able to see the original Bush Theatre production of Resident Alien. He was said to have supported the show fully. According to Crisp’s wishes, he was cremated and his ashes were later spread over the streets of New York City.
In the NYTW production, which is being mounted in association with the Bush Theatre, Crisp will be portrayed by Bette Bourne, who formed the OBIE-winning Bloolips, the “queer comedy ensemble,” in 1977. Bourne’s career includes working in London repertory, the West End and the Old Vic, as well as in television on “The Saint” and “The Avengers.” The creative team for Resident Alien comprises set and costume designer Neil Patel, lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, sound designer Jerry M. Yager and production manger Charles Means.
Tickets for the NYTW production are $45. NYTW is located at 79 East 4 St., between Bowery and Second Ave. The box office number is (212) 460- 5475.
— By Murdoch McBride