BACKSTAGE DRAMA

A form of alchemy took place in the dingy basement of The Pyramid from 1992 - 1995. Between hieroglyphics - ancient tattoos from queens of the old regime - the memebrs of Blacklips Performance Cult would undergo a magical transformation each week. A make-up counter littered with lukewarm cups of coffee, eyelash glue, gummi frogs, glitter and buckets of fake blood provided a working space, a carpenter's bench and a roundtable.

 

Clark Render (in Sylvia Plath drag) begins an ascent to the stage

 

There was a lot of sass and verve from the moment you entered the lair - down the rickety back staircase. Lost Forever may be constructing an ensemble from used bubble wrap and leftover easter grass. Or our ever-patient sound technician Jen, attempting to organize the myriad of unlabeled cassette tapes and scratched vinyl to provide the appropriate soundtrack. Someone inevitably would be preparing a stew of chicken livers, tempera paint or tripe to serve as that week's trademark gore.

 

 

Ebony Jett does a last minute rehearsal

 

 

Many of us gals got dressed in The Pyramid. After chowing down a General Tso's Chicken special from the greasy take-out next door, we'd begin to slap on the warpaint. How I remember Hattie's "14th Street Special Third World" bag or my own "drag bag" - it was actually a large pink and orange beach bag from The Gap that my sister had lent me. Believe me, the irony was not lost. Fllloyd's blood-splattered Adidas bag was actually used in "Jack The Ripper" as a Victorian doctor's satchel. Even after the last lash was in place, we would be waiting for Johanna Constantine to arrive in a cyclone of metal coils, umbrella stems and body paint. And Kabuki Starshine, always a beacon of flawless perfection - it was well worth the wait, but earned us the reputation of keeping "Blacklips Time".

 

James F. Murphy's own boxer short and panyhose combination

 

Many a friend and stagedoor Johnny or Jane would arrive at the witching hour to keep us company, chit-chat, or safety-pin our outfits together. A plethora of pins of the bobby, hair and safety variety were kept on hand for such emergencies. There in that dressing room topics of conversation shifted - a swirl of the Dickensian mixed with David Lynch. Like a huge in-joke, the discussions further enhanced the "Cult" feeling that we had so glibly labeled ourselves with. It was like Waco in a sick way. I always likened it to the first cast of "Saturday Night Live" and envisioned myself as the "Jane Curtain" of the set as I always had to leave promptly after the set was torn down. We had no cab fare in those days and the trek back to Brooklyn on the "F" train, stained in blood or some stage smegma, was always a "highlight" of the week. Many of the cast would stay to close the bar down, warming themselves with potent potables slung by our legendary barmaid Wendy Wild.

 

 

Wendy Wild attends to the boys in the backroom.

 

Earlier in the evening - say around six or so, the cast would have met for our rehearsal and run-through. A stack of xeroxed scripts, fresh from Kinko's would arrive. After a brief blocking, we'd begin constructing a set from the trashpicked treasures we kept "neatly" under the sound booth. Actually, the pile of trash was usually just thrown in a big heap at the end of the night from the previous week. I believe it only enhanced the look of the set. Occasionally, we'd go dumpster diving for some new additions. Any industrial garbage would do - I was particularly fond of fan grilles and busted umbrellas - there always seemed to be plenty of both around. For the set of "The Swiss Family Donner Party" we constructed a forest from discarded Christmas trees dragged in from Avenue A. Not only was it an exciting and fragrant wonderland, but also a severe fire hazard. I secretly think Hattie let us use such items in an attempt to have the Pyramid shut down for good! Later that evening, after we discarded the trees back on Avenue A, someone flicked a lit cigarette into the pile, causing a huge bonfire.

 


Pearls sneaks a cig as "The Crunchberry Beast" in "Earthquake"

 

Our audience had started as a core of friends and misplaced freaks. A couple of goths mixed with thuggy faggots, drunken surly dykes, demented punk rockers, folksy potheads, a sprinkling of club kids (it was the early 90's after all), siblings of the cast, some curious professors from NYU and the like were greeted by blaring music from Clark Render, strong cocktails from Wendy Wild and Howie Pyro's "Maggoty Movies" playing on the bar's video monitors. Somehow it worked. The audience would often participate screaming punchlines or readings or tossing quarters onto the stage. It was like vaudeville on a really low budget. And folding chairs...

Some of our earliest devotees

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