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Iconic 1960’s dancer Fred Herko leaps to life in Deborah Lawlor’s ‘Freddy’ at LACC

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Fred Herko

She knew him in the final years of his life. He shared her apartment months before he died. His memory, and the inspiration his passionate spirit ignited, has firmly gripped her for fifty-three years. Next week, Fountain Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor pays tribute to her gifted and troubled friend with Freddy, her new theatre/dance work opening as a co-production between the Fountain Theatre and Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy.  It runs September 27 – October 14 at the Caminito Theatre.

Even today, no one is sure if Fred Herko intended to kill himself when he jumped out of the window of his friend Johnny Dodd’s Greenwich Village apartment in 1964. The 28-year-old dancer and performer – one of the central figures of New York’s 60s avant-garde and a star of Andy Warhol’s first movies – was high on speed, and possibly LSD.

He was a founder member of the experimental Judson Dance Theater and co-founder of the New York Poets Theater, both famed for their unconventional work, “happenings” and productions, and the manner of Herko’s strange death – leaping naked from a fifth floor window, Mozart on full blast – merely added to his mythology.

Fred Herko leaped from the top floor of this apartment building in NYC.

Herko was born and raised in a blue-collar home. His first two years were spent on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, before the family settled in Ossining, north of New York, the location of the notorious Sing Sing maximum security prison. His father ran a diner. His mother was a housewife. Herko showed early proficiency in piano and was also a great flautist. He was groomed to be a concert pianist, and attended Juilliard, the prestigious performing arts conservatory.

Forde is amassing material for his biography through those who knew him and memoirs of figures like the poet Diane di Prima, Herko’s great friend; Herko himself left no diaries or letters.

Within a year of starting ballet training, Herko performed with established choreographers like his mentor, the dancer, artist and designer James Waring. In 1962, with figures like David Gordon, Lucinda Childs, and Yvonne Rainer, Herko co-founded Judson Dance Theater, which defined what became known as modern dance – elliptical, pared-back sound and movement with a deliberate lack of linear narrative.

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Herko and Aileen Passloff in James Waring’s In the Mist, 1960. Photograph: Vladimir Sladon/Public domain

“Just as pop artists were proposing that cartoons and trucks could be art,” says Forde, “at Judson they showed dance could be combing your hair, rubbing your thighs together, running on the spot, or barking like a dog. It completely rejected Martha Graham’s narrative dance, and Merce Cunningham’s pure dance.” Herko performed in 16 performances between 1962 and 1964, and six original pieces of his own choreography. He also appeared on Ed Sullivan’s TV show, supporting stars like Rosemary Clooney and Pearl Bailey as a backing dancer.

Away from the stage, Herko was having lots of sex. One of Di Prima’s poems was called, For Freddie, Fucking Again, a diatribe which followed him being late for a restaurant date with her. “He liked hanging out at sleazy bars,” says Forde. “He was extremely aware of his sexual power.”

In 1963-4, Herko hung out with the Warhold Factory posse, “an extremely flamboyant crowd who were unashamed of their sexuality”, says Forde. He had relationships with the son of a wealthy Hollywood family, and was rumored to have been kept by a wealthy member of the De Rothschild family in an Upper West Side apartment. He had a relationship with the poet Alan Marlowe, who was then married to and had children with Di Prima.

Herko was very close to Warhol, and performed in some of the artist’s earliest cinematic experiments. One 40-minute film, Roller Skate, is entirely devoted to Herko, dancing all over New York on one rollerskate. The films features him bleeding and hobbling, but smiling and wearing a YMCA Good Guys sweatshirt.

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Herko as Icarus in James Waring’s At the Hallelujah Gardens with costume by Robert Indiana, February 1963. Photograph: Judith Searle

In his memoir Popism, Warhol said Herko had been taking more and more amphetamines. “He destroyed himself: speed, LSD and marijuana,” says Forde. “Everyone was taking speed at that time. Doctors were prescribing it for slimming pills, kids were using it to cram for exams. People snorted it, mainlined it. Drugs became a problem with Freddie at the end of 1962. He was injecting it.”

Herko was reaching a point where he couldn’t perform. “He was choreographing and teaching, but he realised he had fucked his career up,” says Forde. “Doors were closing for him: he was unreliable, strung out, unpredictable; a once sweet boy had become aggressive and had started disappointing people. He’d also become homeless.”

Warhol said that Herko had let himself into Dodd’s home on 27 October 1964. A former lover of Herko’s, Dodd also did the Judson Memorial Church lighting for performances.

However, Forde says Dodd found Herko dancing on the counter of a diner, out of control. “Freddy was covered with filth, and he was dancing on the counter,” Dodd recalled to Warhol biographer David Bourdon. “He said he hadn’t had any drugs for three days, but he was wacked out and his body was quivering.”

Dodd took Herko to his fifth-floor Cornelia Street apartment. Forde says Herko had a shower, and put on the Coronation Mass by Mozart. Warhol told Bourdon that Herko said he had a new ballet to do “and he needed to be alone. He herded the people there out of the room.”

“He danced naked around the living room. The window was open and at the moment of the Sanctus,” says Forde, “Herko leapt out of the window to his death.”

In Bourdon’s version: “Freddy poured a bottle of Dodd’s perfume into a tub of steaming hot water and took a long bubble bath” – Forde says the tub was too squat for this. “He seemed to cheer up as Dodd, who knew that ‘Freddy was a Mozart freak,’ put a recording of the composer’s Coronation Mass on the phonograph. Herko dried himself, then started dancing naked around the living room, whirling round and round, periodically making a long run toward the front windows. Dodd couldn’t help but wonder whether this was going to be the ‘suicide performance’ that Freddy had been promising his friends for so many weeks. ‘It was obvious that Freddy had to do it now: the time and the place were right, the decor was right, the music was right.’

“Herko made another long run and, like Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, leaped out an open window, his momentum carrying him almost to the opposite side of the street. He was 29 years old. Several of Andy’s friends heard him lament on various occasions that he had not been there to film it.”

Fred Herko
Herko as Peter Peterouter in Rosalyn Drexler’s musical comedy Home Movies with Charlotte Bellamy as Sister Thalia and Al Carmines as Father Shenanigan, 1964. Photograph: Van Williams/New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

However, Forde doesn’t believe Herko’s was a performed death. As part of a piece he was preparing, he would routinely go up to the gallery of Judson Memorial Church (which has helped organize the 50th anniversary events) and leap off a 20-foot ledge, landing perfectly. “Every ballet dancer has the sense they can fly, and for seconds suspended in mid-air, they do.”

Had he lived, Forde thinks Herko may have formed his own company, a forerunner of the kind of dance Michael Clark became famous for 20 years later. “There wasn’t any figure taking Freddy’s direction in the 60s and 70s. But people said he didn’t have much discipline. One report from Juilliard said he had problems making up his mind. He was making costumes, collage and painting; he was interested in too many things. In combination with the drugs, it led to his downfall.”

Warhol later said, “For the 26 nights following Freddy’s death, the group at Diane di Prima’s apartment met formally to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead … There was a memorial service for him at Judson Church, but so many people showed up that there was another one for him, at the Factory. We showed the three films.”

Now, 50 years later, for Herko’s surviving loved ones, friends and downtown obsessives, the celebratory events in his name aim to accord him his rightful place in the avant-garde pantheon, in what was a too short – but dramatic – life.

Freddy at LACC Theatre Academy More Info/Get Tickets

This post originally appeared in The Guardian

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Fountain partners with LACC Theatre Academy for world premiere on 1960s dancer ‘Freddy’

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Marty Dew is Fred Herko in ‘Freddy’. 

A naïve young woman falls under the spell of Fred Herko, a brilliant ballet dancer of extraordinary charisma and talent and a fiery denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Written by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor, the world premiere of Freddyopens on Sept. 27, inaugurating a new partnership between the Fountain Theatre and the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy at LACC’sCaminito Theatre.

Set in Greenwich Village in 1964 and based on a true story, Freddy fuses theater, music, dance and video to capture the explosive spirit of a passionate artist and a turbulent era. Marty Dew (Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, Mascot) stars as Fred Herko, a founding member of Judson Dance Theater who was a legendary figure of New York’s avant-garde in the 1960s. Susan Wilder (Still Life at Rogue Machine Theatre) portrays Shelley, whose memories create the framework of the play, while Katie McConaughy (American Idiot at Cupcake Theater) plays her younger self.Mel England (Indie films Best Day Ever and Ron and Laura Take Back America, Swimming with the Polar Bears off-Broadway) takes on the role of dancer, artist and designer James Waring, Herko’s friend and mentor. The cast is rounded out by Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy students Alexandra FiallosJamal HopesTristen KimJackie Mohr, Lamont Oakley, Connor Clark Pascale, Justice Quinn, Savannah RutledgeBrianna Saranchock, Trenton Tabak and Jesse Trout. Frances Loydirects.

Lawlor, who began her career as a dancer, choreographer and actor in New York, was a personal friend of Herko’s.

“I carried around all those memories for a very long time before I finally sat down to write,” she says. “Freddy and I were students of Jimmy Waring together, and we were both involved with the Judson Church, which was at the heart of the downtown dance scene. Freddy was a brilliant talent and good friend to many people. His death shocked us all.”

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Fred Herko, 1964.

Fred Herko (1936-1964) was a central figure in New York’s downtown avant-garde. A musical prodigy, he studied piano at the Juilliard School of Music before switching to ballet at the age of twenty. In 1956 he won a scholarship to study at American Ballet Theatre School and within a few years was dancing with established choreographers including John Butler, Katherine Litz, Buzz Miller, Glen Tetley and James Waring. He was a founding member of Judson Dance Theater, presenting six of his own works in the group’s concerts between 1962 and 1964 and dancing in works by Al Hansen, Deborah Hay, Arlene Rothlein and Elaine Summers. He was a co-founder of the New York Poets Theatre, which staged one-act plays by poets and provided a podium for happenings by Ray Johnson, Allan Kaprow and Robert Whitman; dances by Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown; music by La Monte Young, John Herbert McDowell and Philip Corner; and films by Brian De Palma, Stan VanDerBeek and Andy Warhol. Herko starred in seven of Warhol’s earliest cinematic experiments in 1963, including Jill and Freddy Dancing, Rollerskate/Dance Movie and Salome and Delilah. His untimely death in 1964, at the age of 28, robbed New York’s underground scene of one of its most exuberant and versatile performers who was equally at home performing Comb Music by Fluxus composer George Brecht or camping it up in Rosalyn Drexler’s musical comedy Home Movies.

Freddy was always conceived as an off-site project because it requires a larger performance area than what we can offer at the Fountain,” explains Lawlor’s co-artistic director, Stephen Sachs, who is an alumnus of the LACC Theatre Academy. “In addition to sharing their remarkable facility, this collaboration gives Academy students the opportunity to work with professional actors and designers, and it gives us the chance to mentor young people who will become theater artists of tomorrow.”

The creative team for Freddy includes dance and movement director Cate Caplin, scenic designer Tesshi Nakagowa, lighting designer Derek Jones, sound designer Vern Yonemura, costume designer Jillian Ross and props master Amrit Samra. The production stage manager is Jasmine KalraJames Bennett and Leslie Ferreira produce for the Fountain Theatre and LACC Theatre Academy respectively.

Deborah Lawlor began her career as a dancer, choreographer and actor in New York before moving to South India, where she lived for five years. There, she was involved in the initial development of the international township of Auroville and created two full-length outdoor dance/theater pieces celebrating the community. She spent the next ten years in Australia and France studying ancient cultures of India and Egypt and translating several books in these fields from French into English. Returning to the U.S. in 1986, she became deeply involved in the intimate theater scene and, in 1990, she and Stephen Sachs co-founded the Fountain Theatre. Lawlor is responsible for the Fountain’s extensive dance involvement, including the company’s renowned “Forever Flamenco” series. Other dance projects at the Fountain include The Women of Guernica, Lawlor’s flamenco-based adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, which she also directed, and three full-evening dance-theater pieces which she created and directed: Declarations: Love Letters of the Great Romantics; The Path of Love, which she also directed in South India; and the dance opera, The Song of Songs, with music by Al Carmines. Actor’s Equity Association honored Lawlor with its Diversity Award for her dedication to presenting work at the Fountain that is culturally diverse.

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Deborah Lawlor and Frances Loy

A British director currently living in Los Angeles, Frances Loy creates text-based, ensemble driven work inspired and ignited by the darker experiences of humanity. She has a strong aesthetic towards up-close and intimate theater that puts the audience in the heart of the world created by the actors, and has particular experience in alternative performance spaces and immersive theatrical experiences. Frances was co-founder and artistic director of Theatre Delicatessen, described by Time Out London as “the leading light of pop-up theatre,” and she is artistic director of Ferment Theatre, whose production of Tonight/Jungle was given a New York Times “Critic’s Pick” by Ben Brantley. Frances also creates content for VR 360 films and is currently in pre-production for her first short film.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric being selected by Center Theatre Group for its inaugural launching of Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; and grant awards from The Greenberg Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and a $50,000 gift from Drama-Logue founder Bill Bordy. The Fountain’s most recent production, the world premiere of Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, ran for five months and was named “L.A. hottest ticket” by the Los Angeles Times.

Established in 1929, the theater training program at Los Angeles City College is one of the oldest and most respected training programs in the country. It has trained countless numbers of students who have gone on to successful careers in the entertainment industry in acting, directing, casting, production, writing, production coordination, design in lighting, sound, costuming and sets, technical production, technical direction, owners and directors of various theater-oriented businesses and organizations, and numerous technical and costuming specializations. Graduates from LACC have won numerous awards, including recipients of the Academy Award, Emmy Award, Tony Award and Bravo Award. Its teaching excellence has been heralded by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival, the California Community College Academic Senate, the California Educational Theatre Association, the Los Angeles Community College District, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles. Further, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle gave LACC a special award for “maintaining consistently high standard of programming and production.”

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Fountain Theatre launches 2017-18 season for social action with world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s new play, ‘Building the Wall’

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The Fountain Theatre will open its 2017-18 season of new plays with an urgent warning against the proposed policies of the Trump administration, followed by statements on social justice, inclusion, acceptance of “the other,” prejudice, the role of government and the need for human connection.

“The Fountain has always been committed to speaking out for social justice and inclusion,” asserts Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “These are disturbing and tumultuous times — for our local intimate theater community in Los Angeles and our nation. The Fountain is a place for theater to serve as a vehicle for public discourse: to express outrage, compassion and hope.”

The 2017-18 season will include four world premieres — Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan; Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps; Freddie by Deborah Lawlor; and Arrival and Departure by Stephen Sachs — as well as the Los Angeles premiere of The Chosen by Aaron Posner. The Fountain’s 2015 production of Citizen: An American Lyric, written by Claudia Rankine and adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs, will be presented at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of Center Theatre Group’s inaugural Block Party. And, in addition to the Fountain’s ongoing, monthly ‘Forever Flamenco’ series, the Fountain will host Flamenco Fiesta, a two-day, outdoor flamenco concert celebration.

Over the past 27 years, The Fountain Theatre has established itself as one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. Fountain projects have been translated into numerous languages, produced across the U.S. and worldwide, and made into a TV movie.

The Fountain Theatre’s 2017-18 season is as follows:

March 18 – May 21 (previews March 15-17)
building-wallWorld premiere of Building the WallThe newest play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle, All the Way), directed by award-winning Michael Michetti. It’s the very near future, and the Trump administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. Now, a writer interviews the supervisor of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting, harrowing and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.

April 30 – May 7 (previews April 28-29)

citizenCitizen: An American LyricCenter Theatre Group will remount the Fountain’s award-winning 2015 production at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of CTG’s inaugural Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre. Written by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs and directed by Shirley Jo Finney, Citizen fuses poetry, prose, movement, music and video images in a provocative meditation on everyday acts of racism in America. Actors returning from the original production include Simone Missick, who co-stars as Misty Knight on Netflix’s Luke Cage.

Summer 2017
runaway-homeWorld premiere of Runaway Home Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the unhealed wounds of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward continue to fester. In this powerful, funny and deeply moving mother-daughter story by Jeremy J. Kamps, 14-year-old runaway Kali embarks on a journey to pick through the wreckage of what used to be her life. Rhyming, stealing and scamming her way through the still-destroyed neighborhood, engaging the vivid, lively denizens who remain, she grapples with the real cost of what she has lost as she is forced to confront the even higher cost of moving forward and the possibility of redemption.

Fall 2017
the-chosenLos Angeles premiere of The Chosen The Fountain Theatre celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chaim Potok’s beloved novel with the L.A. premiere of the award-winning stage adaptation by Aaron Posner. A silent father, an ancient tradition and an unexpectedly important game of baseball forge bonds of lifelong friendship between two Jewish boys from “five blocks and a world apart” in this funny, poignant, timely and timeless story about recognition and acceptance of “the other.” Directed by Simon Levy.

Fall 2017
freddieWorld premiere of Freddie This hybrid dance/theater work by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor will be presented at Los Angeles City College, inaugurating a new partnership with the LACC Theatre Academy. Set in Greenwich Village in 1964 and based on a true story, Freddie fuses theater, music, dance and video to capture the explosive spirit of a passionate artist and a turbulent era. A naïve young woman falls under the spell of Freddie Herko, a brilliant ballet dancer of extraordinary charisma and talent and a beloved luminary of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Frances Loy directs.

Spring 2018
arrival-departWorld premiere of Arrival and Departure Troy Kotsur and his real-life wife Deanne Bray star in a modern-day, re-imagined deaf/hearing stage adaptation by Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist, Cyrano) of the classic 1945 British romantic film, Brief Encounter. A deaf man and a deaf woman, married to different people, meet accidentally in a train station. A friendship develops over time, escalating into a passionate love affair that both struggle to permit themselves to consummate. An unforgettable love story about the challenges of communication, social isolation, diversity and self-empowerment.

Visit the Fountain Theatre (323) 663-1525

New Video: Join the adventure of ‘Freddie’, a new theatre/dance work in progress, Oct 27-29

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Ottavio Taddei is Freddie in the lab workshop

Be part of the process as Deborah Lawlor develops her new theatre/dance piece about ballet dancer and friend Freddie Herko. Directed by Frances Loy, the Freddie workshop is an exploration of blending dance movement and theatre to tell the compelling true story of the charismatic dancer who was part of the Andy Warhol scene in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1960’s.

An exploration, not a full production, this workshop puts you at the center of the creative journey as we invite you into the rehearsal studio for three free public presentations this Thursday, Oct 27th – Saturday, October 29th, at 8pm. Your feedback is important. There will be a conversation following each presentation.

Be bold! Join us for the adventure. Because of the uniqueness of the project, the Freddie workshop is happening at BP Studios at The Brewery, 618 Moulton Avenue, in downtown Los Angeles. Map and directions. Free parking.

Thursday, Oct 27th – Saturday, October 29th, at 8pm

Seating is FREE. (323) 663-1525 More Info/Make Your Reservation       

This project is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

NOW CASTING: 3-week development workshop for new theatre/dance work ‘Freddie’

Freddy rooftopThe Fountain Theatre is now casting a 3-week development workshop for Freddie, a new project by Deborah Lawlor that combines theatre, dance and music to tell the unforgettable true story of a legendary dancer.  

STORYLINE:
Based on a true story. Greenwich Village, 1964. Freddie Herko was a brilliant 28 year-old ballet dancer of extraordinary charisma and talent haunted by dark self-destructive demons. A fiery denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory, Herko became more eccentric, unpredictable and self-destructive. While dancing in his NY apartment to Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Herko leapt out the window and fell to his death five stories down. The project “Freddie” chronicles the friendship between Freddie and Shelley, the naive young woman caught under his spell who desires to be a dancer. By fusing theatre, music, dance and video, the project will capture the explosive spirit of a passionate artist and a turbulent era. 

Director: Frances Loy
Writer: Deborah Lawlor
Producer: Stephen Sachs
Co-Producer: Simon Levy
Associate Producer: James Bennett
Casting Director: Frances Loy

Dates: 3-week rehearsal period in October, culminating in 3 public performances. Exact dates to be determined based on artist availability. 

SPECIAL NOTE:
This is a 3-week developmental workshop of a new theatre piece combining theatre, dance/movement and music. To explore and discover how the text intertwines with dance/movement.  It will culminate in 3 public performances. This project is supported, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Roles:
[FREDDIE]
20 to 30 years old, male. Charismatic, dynamic, tortured soul. Must have strong training and experience in classical ballet.
[SHELLEY]
20 to 25 years old, female. Naive, innocent, excitable, light quality. Must have strong training and experience in classical ballet.
[GLORIA/DIANE DI PRIMA/MARGARET/BABY JANE]
30 to 50 years old, female. Seeking versatile actress to play multiple roles. Grounded, motherly quality. Flirtatious and exuberant. Must have some training in classical ballet.
[TINA/ONDINE]
30 to 40 years old, female. Darkly mystical and mysterious. Must have some training in classical ballet.
[ANDY/JOHNNIE/GEORGE/EDDIE]
20 to 40 years old, male. Seeking versatile actor to play multiple roles, including aloof to friendly to intimidating to gregarious. Must have some training inn classical ballet.
[BILLY/RALPH/SERGIO]
20 to 40 years old, male. Seeking versatile actor to play multiple roles, including gregarious Italian and down-to-earth dependable.
[JIMMY WARING/ROTTEN RITA]
40 to 50 years old, male. Two roles: sober, sage “mentor” type plus lightly effeminate with strong comedy skills.
[PETE/ONDINE/ARTHUR]
30 to 40 years old, male. Seeking versatile actor to play multiple roles: from opera nut who holds forth to straight, strong and dependable husband of Shelley.

There is pay.

Submit electronically via Actors Access  

or via email: casting@fountaintheatre.com

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: First reading of new play on passionate and iconic 1960’s dancer

4The upstairs rehearsal room at the Fountain last night was transported back to 1964 and Andy Warhol’s Factory with the first reading of the new play, Freddie, written by Fountain Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor. Freddie tells the unforgettable true story of Frederick Herko, the young avant garde dancer who galvanized audiences and those who knew him in New York’s East Village during the turbulent 1960’s.

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Frederick Herko 1964

Continuing its commitment to developing new plays, the reading last night offered Lawlor and the Fountain team the opportunity to hear the script read aloud by actors for the very first time. Reading the new play last night were actors Kristin Carey, Faith D’Amato, John Dyer, Harry Farmer, Dennis Gersten, Matthew Hancock, Rob Nagle, Natalie Ochoa, Erin Reed, and Donna Simone Johnson. The reading was directed by Frances Loy.

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A dazzling storm of charisma, beauty and artistic passion, Herko was a brilliant 28 year-old dancer of extraordinary talent haunted by dark self-destructive demons. A fiery denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory and the experimental scene in Greenwich Village, Herko became more eccentric, unpredictable and self-destructive. In 1964, while dancing in his apartment to Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Herko leapt out the window and fell to his death five stories down. Created by Deborah Lawlor, who was a close friend of Herko in the final year of his life, the project chronicles the blazing comet of the Icarus-like Freddie and the explosive creative energy of the 1960’s. By fusing theatre, music, and dance the project will capture the explosive spirit of a passionate artist and a turbulent era.

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Freddie Herko

The development of Freddie is supported, in part, by a grant from the national Endowment for the Arts. A workshop presentation of the new work will be presented this fall. 

Deborah Lawlor in NY at Festival Celebrating 1960’s Legendary Dancer and Friend Fred Herko

Deborah Lawlor reads a poem at the Freddy conference.

Deborah Lawlor reads a poem at the Freddy conference.

Fountain Producing Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor is in New York this week attending a week-long festival of events celebrating the life of Fred Herko, a dancer and legendary figure in New York’s 1960s avant-garde.  The program is curated by Herko biographer Gerard Forde to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Herko’s death on October 27th, 1964. Herko was a founding member of the experimental Judson Dance Theater and a figure in the Andy Warhol underground scene. When the 28-year-old dancer,  high on speed, leaped naked out a friend’s fifth-floor apartment window dancing to Mozart and fell to his death in 1964, his life and death became legend.

Deborah Lawlor knew Fred Herko well. As a young dancer newly arrived in New York City in the 1960’s, she entered the East Village avant-garde dance scene and grew to know and love the charismatic Herko, sharing an apartment with him. Lawlor is now creating a theatre/dance piece called Freddie, dramatizing his blazing Icarus-like trajectory. Funded with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Freddie is scheduled to be presented by the Fountain Theatre in the fall 2015.

Fred Herko biographer Gerard Forde and Deborah Lawlor

Fred Herko biographer Gerard Forde and Deborah Lawlor

Even today, no one is sure if Fred Herko intended to kill himself when he jumped out of the window of his friend Johnny Dodd’s Greenwich Village apartment in 1964.

In the coming days there will be a memorial tribute at Judson Memorial Church, featuring contemporaries like the poet John Giorno, and the dancer Gus Solomons Jr who will perform a dance poem in Herko’s memory. A separate symposium will correct, says Forde, “the mythology and misreadings” around the dark-haired, handsome Herko. There will be an exhibition of pictures of Herko performing, and three of Warhol’s films that starred Herko will also be shown.  Continue reading