Tag Archives: Freud Playhouse


I am homosexual, I am a psychiatrist. I, like most of you in this room, am a member of the [American Psychiatric Association] and am proud of that membership. However, tonight, I am insofar as it is possible, a we.— Dr. John E. Fryer, aka Dr. Henry Anonymous

So began Dr. Fryer’s 1972 speech at the APA convention in Dallas. Wearing a rubber mask and speaking through a voice-altering device, Fryer anonymously addressed a panel titled Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to the Homosexual? A Dialogue.

(Since 1952, the APA had classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disorder”—a diagnosis, paradoxically, welcomed at the time by many in the gay community, who saw it as a step up from the then prevailing view of queerness as a criminal perversion.)

Dr. Fryer was convinced he needed his disguise to keep medical license, but his courageous speech struck the convention like a bolt of lightening, and the following year the APA removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Writer-director Ain Gordon went through Dr. Fryer’s personal papers to create 217 BOXES OF DR. HENRY ANONYMOUS, onstage this weekend at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse. This conceptual theater piece focuses on three people in Dr. Fryer’s life: his secretary Katherine M. Luder (played by Laura Esterman), his father Ercel Fryer (Ken Marks), and one of his patients, Alfred A. Gross (Derek Lucci)—a fascinating character who, among other things, assisted doctors working with the Selective Service System to weed out potential gay troops leading up to World War II, during which time Gross was accused of “fraternization” with a number of his interlocutors.


Friday, October 11, at 8 pm.

Saturday, October 12, at 3 pm and 8 pm.

Freud Playhouse, UCLA

245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.

Ain Gordon, 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous, from top: Derek Lucci; Dr. John E. Fryer (right) at the 1972 APA convention in Dallas; Lucci; Laura Esterman(2); Ken Marks, with rear projection of Dr. Fryer. Lucci (top) and Marks photographs by Paula Court. Images courtesy and © the performers, the photographers, and CAP UCLA.


Everyone knows the opening sentence of Joan Didion’s 1968–1978 essay “The White Album”:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

The 40-page piece jump-cuts through the undefined haze of Didion’s version of the 1960s in California. Stories are told, interpretations are made, impressions and coincidences noted, but verifiable sense and significance remain elusive:

We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while.

For Didion, things began to change in 1966:

I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling… During these years I appeared, on the face of it, a competent enough member of some community or another… This was an adequate enough performance, as improvisations go. The only problem was that my entire education, everything I had ever been told or had told myself, insisted that the production was never meant to be improvised: I was supposed to have a script, and I had mislaid it.

Didion—who lived during this period in a large rented house on Franklin Avenue, in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintances as a “senseless-killing neighborhood”—takes us to a recording session with Jim Morrison and The Doors, and to the murder trials for the killers of Ramon Navarro and Sharon Tate. She spends time with the Black Panthers—with Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver in their home and with Huey Newton in jail:

As it happened I had always appreciated the logic of the Panther position, based as it was on the proposition that political power began at the end of the barrel of a gun… and I could appreciate as well the particular beauty in Huey Newton as “issue.” In the politics of revolution, everyone is expendable, but I doubted that Huey Newton’s political sophistication extended to seeing himself that way: the value of a Scottsboro case is easier to see if you are not yourself the Scottsboro boy.

At a university protest, she clocks the privilege of some of the participants:

Here at San Francisco State only the black militants could be construed as serious… Meanwhile the administrators could talk about programs. Meanwhile the white radicals could see themselves, on an investment of virtually nothing, as urban guerrillas.

Didion is beset by neural damage, and an attack of vertigo and nausea, [which] does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968.

But the drift is more profound:

I was meant to know the plot, but all I knew was what I saw: flash pictures in variable sequence, images with no “meaning” beyond their temporary arrangement, not a movie but a cutting-room experience. In what would probably be the middle of my life I wanted still to believe in the narrative and in the narrative’s intelligibility, but to know that one could change the sense with every cut was to begin to perceive the experience as rather more electrical than ethical.

Sound familiar?

Lars Jan and Early Morning Opera will make theatrical sense of Didion’s essay in the CAP UCLA presentation of THE WHITE ALBUM, a staged performance at the “intersection between observation, storytelling, audience participation, choreography, and architecture.”* Mia Barron, as Didion, recites the entire essay from memory, while a group of actors and recruited audience members flesh out Didion’s famous take on “accidie.”


Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6, at 8 pm.

Saturday, April 6, at 3 pm.

Sunday, April 7, at 7 pm.

Freud Playhouse, UCLA

245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.

All italicized passages are by Joan Didion, “The White Album,” in The White Album (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 11–48.

From top: The White Album, by Joan Didion, performance created by Lars Jan / Early Morning Opera, image courtesy CAP UCLA; Joan Didion, photograph by Julian Wasser; Kathleen Cleaver and Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers in 1969, photograph by Bruno Barbey; Huey Newton, (center right); Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate; Jim Morrison, photograph © Joel Brodsky, 1967.



The great dancer and choreographer Kyle Abraham brings a special presentation of his work DEAREST HOME—“an interactive dance work developed over multiple years, focusing on love, longing and loss”—to UCLA, where he is a faculty member in the department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance.*

The various solos, duets, and small groups that make up DEAREST HOME will be performed “in the round,” with a score by Jerome Begin that is optional – depending on whether you chose to wear the seatside headphones or not.



Thursday through Saturday, April 5, 6, and 7, at 8 pm; Saturday, April 7, at 3 pm.

FREUD PLAYHOUSE, UCLA, 245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.


Above: Jeremy Jae Neal, Vinson Fraley, Jr., and Catherine Ellis Kirk, in Dearest Home.

Below: Connie Shiau, Matthew Baker, and Tamisha Guy.

Photographs by Carrie Schneider. Image credit: Abraham.In.Motion.

Image result for kyle abraham dearest home



“As a stagehand you sit in the dark for many, many long hours. You wear black all the time, like you are perpetually at a funeral. You are not supposed to be seen. You are not supposed to be heard. Your skill set can sometimes resemble your suffering, your isolation.” — Karen Sherman*

Sherman—a dancer, choreographer, artist, writer, and stagehand—understands the tensions between backstage workers and the performers they support, and the dark space proximate to but excluded from the spotlight.

This sense of erasure informs Sherman’s dance/theater piece SOFT GOODS—presented this weekend by CAP UCLA—”an examination of the lives lived backstage, the lonesomeness of theaters, the spectral beauty of a lighting focus, the choreography of labor, and the labor of dance.”**


KAREN SHERMAN—SOFT GOODS, Saturday, October 7, at 8 pm.


*  mprnews.org/story/2016/12/06/soft-goods-turns-dance-spotlight-backstage-karen-sherman

**  cp.ucla.edu/calendar/details/karen_sherman

Karen Sherman (light gray shirt, facing camera), Soft Goods. Photographs by Euan Kerr. Image credit: MPR.

The cast for "Soft Goods"


Karen Sherman, Soft Goods Photograph by Euan Kerr Image credit: MPR


Actor, satirist, and performance artist non pareil Penny Arcade became a member of New York’s Playhouse of the Ridiculous at 17, and invented her nom de guerre while tripping on LSD. She created her best known piece BITCH! DYKE! FAGHAG! WHORE! in 1990, and her work is collected in the Semiotext(e) volume Bad Reputation. This weekend Penny brings her monologue LONGING LASTS LONGER to UCLA. “Mixed live to euphoric soundscapes,” this Los Angeles debut is presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA), and co-directed and designed by Steve Zehentner.


PENNY ARCADE: LONGING LASTS LONGER, Saturday, April 8 at 8 pm; Sunday, April 9 at 7 pm.



Penny Arcade, Bad Reputation: Performances, Essays, Interviews (Semiotexte, 2009)


Penny Arcade Photograph by Steven Menendez

Penny Arcade
Photograph by Steven Menendez