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Ethyl Eichelberger (born James Roy Eichelberger, July 17, 1945 – August 12, 1990) was an American drag performer, playwright, and actor. He became an influential figure in experimental theater and writing, and performed nearly forty plays. He became more widely known as a commercial actor in the 1980s.
"Eichelberger's plays were performed in almost any space that might pass as a stage in New York City during the height of the East Village performance bar scene of the 1980s. Among the venues at which they were produced are the Pyramid Club, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, and 8 B.C., and later at more established venues such as P.S. 122, Dixon Place, La Mama, the Performing Garage, and Dance Theatre Workshop. Eichelberger also took productions of his plays on tour to such far away places as Australia and Europe.") -- Joe E. Jeffreys
Ethyl Eichelberger was born James Roy Eichelberger on July 17, 1945 in Pekin, Illinois. He attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1967. For seven years he was the lead character actor at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. He then returned to New York, changed his name to Ethyl, and became a member of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, acting and designing wigs.

He often performed solo works in free verse based on the lives of the grand dames of history, including Lucrezia Borgia, Jocasta, Medea, Lola Montez, Nefertiti, Clytemnestra, and Carlotta, Empress of Mexico. "I wanted to play the great roles but who would cast me as Medea?", he mused late in life in Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century. His 1984 play Leer distilled Shakespears's King Lear into 3 characters, all played by Eichelberger. Such works are rarely revived, as they require a solo performer capable of accompanying himself on the accordion, eating fire, turning cartwheels, and doing splits and other acrobatic feats.

He became more widely known as a commercial actor in the 1980s, appearing with The Flying Karamazov Brothers on Broadway in Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, and with Sting in The Threepenny Opera. He also appeared as a cast member of the HBO variety series Encyclopedia.


Peter Huiar, Ethyl Eichelberger, 1983


AIDS Quilt


He was diagnosed with AIDS and was unable to tolerate the available medications. He committed suicide by slashing his wrists in his Staten Island home, according to friends and the city medical examiner's office. Only after his suicide did it become widely known that he was ill.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethyl_Eichelberger

Further Readings:

Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (October 29, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1608194191
ISBN-13: 978-1608194193
Amazon: Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz
Amazon Kindle: Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

David Wojnarowicz was an abused child, a teen runaway who barely finished high school, but he emerged as one of the most important voices of his generation. He found his tribe in New York’s East Village, a neighborhood noted in the 1970s and ’80s for drugs, blight, and a burgeoning art scene. His creativity spilled out in paintings, photographs, films, texts, installations, and in his life and its recounting—creating a sort of mythos around himself. His circle of East Village artists moved into the national spotlight just as the AIDS plague began its devastating advance, and as right-wing culture warriors reared their heads. As Wojnarowicz’s reputation as an artist grew, so did his reputation as an agitator—because he dealt so openly with his homosexuality, so angrily with his circumstances as a Person With AIDS, and so fiercely with his would-be censors.

Fire in the Belly is the untold story of a polarizing figure at a pivotal moment in American culture—and one of the most highly acclaimed biographies of the year.

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