Charles Ludlam grew up in Queens, New York, just a few subway stops from Greenwich Village, and the heart of Gay America. At twenty-four, he founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, where he wrote, directed and performed in almost every production for the next two decades, often with Everett Quinton, his life partner and muse, by his side. Renowned for drag, high comedy, melodrama, satire, precise literary references, gender politics, sexual frolic, and a multitude of acting styles, the Ridiculous Theater guaranteed a kind of biting humor that could both sting and tickle. His many plays included Turds in Hell, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet, a riff on Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Bluebeard, and The Mystery of Irma Vep, his most popular play, and a performer’s tour-de-force. Ludlam continued working until almost the day he died of PCP pneumonia, just three months after his AIDS diagnosis. He was 44.

At the time of Ludlam’s death in 1987, his films had not been completed. Queer/Art/Film, a monthly art and film series held in New York City, contacted Ludlam’s partner, Everett Quinton, and original composer, Peter Golub, to aid in preserving the films; with their help, the films were transferred to video with new soundtracks by Golub. With Everett’s kind permission, we have uploaded Ludlam’s rarely seen short film, THE MUSEUM OF WAX, to the Film Gallery along with resources about Ludlam’s career. The original 16mm film prints and new digital masters are now archived with the Legacy Project at the UCLA Film & Television Archive and will be preserved for generations to come!

WRITINGS ABOUT CHARLES LUDLAM

“An Interview with Charles Ludlam by Don Shewey” by Don Shewey
Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to FacePlume (October 1, 1987)
Or download here.

“Lost and Found” by Hilton Als
The New Yorker (February 15, 2010)
Or download here.

“Lost Charles Ludlam Films at IFC Center” by Dan Callahan
Slant Magazine(February 2010)
Or download here.

“An Interview with Charles Ludlam and Christopher Scott” by Ted Castle
Bomb Magazine (1982)

Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theater Manifesto 
Or download here.

Ridiculous Theatre: Scourge of Human Folly: The Essays and Opinions of Charles Ludlam Charles Ludlam and Steven Samuels,
Theatre Communications Group (January 1, 1993)
Preview available at Google Books.

RELATED RESOURCES

Archive Research & Study Center at UCLA
For more information on how to access the Outfest Legacy Project Collection and the UCLA Film & Television Archive

Queer/Art/Film

For regular updates, join us on Facebook at “Queer/Art/Film”

“Charles Ludlam is one of those people who, had he survived the AIDS epidemic, would be at the forefront of those shaping our collective NYC consciousness today with his art and commentary. Our loss. As a student I always wanted to see the unscreened 16mm films of Charles Ludlam, stowed away in some glittering watercloset, paralyzed in some penultimate state. Twenty years later they are discovered sitting on Everett Quinton’s shelf, patiently awaiting inquiry.”
– Antony Hegarty (Antony & the Johnsons)

Watch the Film

THE MUSEUM OF WAX

Dir. Charles Ludlam; Scr. Charles Ludlam and Everitt Quinton
1987, 20 min, USA

THE MUSEUM OF WAX is one of two 16mm films Ludlam shot in the late 1970s and was left unfinished at the time of his death from AIDS in 1987. Until the recent digital re-mastering and the addition of a new score by original composer Peter Golub, it had not been seen in over 20 years.

THE MUSEUM OF WAX was digitally re-mastered by Queer/Art/Film, the monthly art and film series held in New York City. The original 16mm film print and new digital masters are now archived with the Legacy Project at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. A special thank you to Everett Quinton, Peter Golub, Ira Sachs, and Adam Baran.

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