Asphodel at the Judson Poets Theater
Asphodel, in Hell's Despite by John Weiner (with a rock score by John Herbert MacDowell) was a production of the Judson Poets Theater. Andy Warhol designed the stage layout for the play (SB79) and Jerry Benjamin, who would later co-direct Warhol's film SOAP OPERA, directed it. Stephen J. Bottoms notes in Playing Underground: A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway Movement, that "at the end of the play, in which two Adam and Eve couples - the younger naive and energetic, the older experienced and world-weary - fail to learn from each other, everyone is consigned to hell: the Judson audience was subjected to a bombardment of noise, lighting, and other effects (tactics that Warhol was later to develop in his assaultive multimedia spectacle, the EXPLODING PLASTIC INEVITABLE)." (SB80)
The play was staged as a double-bill with What Happened by Gertrude Stein, directed by Larry Kornfeld. The production of the Stein play won Obie awards for Best Production of a Musical, Distinguished Direction, and Best Music - the same year that future Warhol star TAYLOR MEAD won an Obie for Distinguished Performance for The General Returns from One Place to Another by Frank O'Hara (CC114) The O'Hara play was presented at the Writers' Stage Theater as the first production of of "Present Stages" - a new venture by Asphodel director (and SOAP OPERA co-director) JERRY BENJAMIN. (SB81)
The November issue of Diane di Prima's underground newsletter, The Floating Bear, contained a review by Alan Marlowe of the Judson production of Asphodel and What Happened:
"What Happened was what happened to Gertrude Stein's lovely sonorous sentences with a charming piano score by Al Carmines. There was singing sung by the cast of light, and dance movement and games by the [James] Waring Girls. Everyone had a good time and produced a delightful theatre piece.
Asphodel, In Hell's Despite by John Weiners which accompanied the Stein was a piece of John Weiners' very special reality. The production by Jerry Benjamin did little to benefit the piece, but Weiners' words are always a delight to hear.
The [Judson] Church is again fostering The Arts. The Judson Dance Theatre which in its series of programs has introduced many new dance works and performers, the Judson Poets' Theatre, a group sculpture and painting show in the Parrish House and gardens of beautiful St. Mark's on the Bouerie, and its summer series of poetry readings and music concerts have brightened up the scene considerably." (JD317)
The Stein play was also later performed at the Judson Poets' Theater on March 12, 1965 at a benefit for the Caffe Cino after the Cino was damaged by a fire on Ash Wednesday, March 3, 1965. (CC96/99)