Ethyl

Ethyl Eichelberger (1945-1990)

Who is Ethyl Eichelberger?
A legendary downtown performer, Ethyl Eichelberger’s high octane performances earned him critical acclaim, a loyal audience following, and a mythic reputation. An accomplished musician and classically trained actor, Ethyl wrote, produced, and performed over thirty solo and group performance works that explored the struggles of strong women who survive in history, literature and myth from Klytemnestra to Lucrezia Borgia. Understanding that it is all drag, he also wrote a series of male roles for himself including Leer and Rip Van Winkle. His hilarious plays with rollicking musical numbers featured a rotating cast of downtown luminaries and were staged in venues all over the East Village and toured worldwide. Ethyl acted for The Ridiculous Theatre Company, Trinity Repertory Company, and other regional theater companies, and enjoyed a commercial career on Broadway, in television, and in film. Ethyl was an acrobat, ate fire, rode a unicycle, played the accordion (among other instruments), designed sets, and made wigs and films.

What is The Ethyl Eichelberger Award?
The Ethyl Eichelberger Award is a commissioning award created by Performance Space 122 in 2005 and made possible with the generous support of the Gesso Foundation. The Ethyl Eichelberger Award is given to an artist or group that exemplifies Ethyl’s larger-than-life style and generosity of spirit; who embodies Ethyl’s multi-talented artistic virtuosity, bridging worlds and vitalizing those around them. Recipients include Taylor Mac (2005), Julie Atlas Muz (2006), Justin Bond (2007), Jennifer Miller (2008), Vaginal Davis (2009), John Kelly (2010), and Peggy Shaw (2011).

Why is The Ethyl Eichelberger Award at PS122?
Ethyl premiered and performed much of his work here at PS 122. His spirit and artistic adventurousness are intrinsic components of what came to be viewed as the PS 122 aesthetic. Some claim the space is gently haunted by his spirit. In addition to the award, the dressing room downstairs is named in his honor.

“I do want to leave a legacy. Of whatever, for anyone who’d be interested… One would hate to think that one has passed through this world and left nothing. It’s not even so much leaving something, it’s having done something to better the world. I hope I’ve opened a lot of doors.”
- Ethyl Eichelberger

“Everyone should have the chance to show off.”
- Ethyl Eichelberger

Videos Courtesy of Character Generators and Nelson Sullivan.

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The Complete Plays of Ethyl Eichelberger

Phedre (1972), Nefert-iti (1976), Auntie Belle Emme (1979), Medea (1980), Carlotta, Empress of Mexico (1980),
Minnie the Maid (1981 Villager Award), Shi Liu (1981), Jocasta or Boy Crazy (1982), Catherine was Great (1982), A Virgin and A Queen (1982), Lucrezia Borgia (1982 Obie Award), Marie Antoinette (1983), Lola Montez (1982), Toulouse Women or Moulin Rage (1984), Ruth Ruth (1984), Souled Out or Dr. Mary Faustus (1984), Klytemnestra or The Nightingale of Argos (1985), Mrs. Wiggs in the Cabbage Patch (1985), Hamlette (1985), Medusa (1985), Leer (1985), Fowl Ball (1985), Casanova (1985), Rip Van Winkle (1986), Saint Joan (1987), The Tempest of Chim-Lee (1987), The Lincolns (1988), Ariadne Obnoxious (1988), Herd of Buffalo (1989), Dilbert Dingle Dong, The Doomed or A Nest Full of Ninnies (1989), Das Vedanya Mama (1990).

Click to play “We Are Women Who Survive” MP3 by Ethyl Eichelberger

Ethyl often performed this song as an encore. It was his theme song.

We Are Women Who Survive

Song and lyrics by Ethyl Eichelberger

We are women who survive; our world is hard.
We are women who survive; our world is mean.
We are women who survive; scratch us, we bleed.
We are women who survive, but we will live to fight another day.

The men around us stumble forward.
When they fall we prop them up.
We are there when we are needed to fortify.
And why is that, honey? Why is it?

Cause we are…

We are women who survive; our world is hard.
We are women who survive; our world is mean.
We are women who survive; scratch us, we bleed.
We are women who survive, but we will live to fight another day.

When we enter a dark chamber, we open the window and we say,
“We are looking for light; we are looking for love.”
In the midst of the darkest shadows,
We will strive to find a better way.

We are women who survive; our world is hard.
We are women who survive; our world is mean.
We are women who survive; scratch us, we bleed.
We are women who survive, but we will live to fight,
fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight,
fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight,
fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight,
another day.

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