Charles Ludlam Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Charles Ludlam wrote several essays on the theater, some of which are collected in Ridiculous Theatre: Scourge of Human Folly: The Essays and Opinions of Charles Ludlam (1992), edited by Steven Samuels. In 1976 he was commissioned to write the book for Isle of the Hermaphrodites: Or, The Murdered Minion, but this musical about Catherine de Médicis and the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre never made it to Broadway. In 1977 he wrote “Aphrodisiamania,” a scenario for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and in 1980 he wrote a short opera, The Production of Mysteries (with resident composer Peter Golub) for the Santa Fe Opera.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Charles Ludlam won critical plaudits and professional awards early, receiving his first Obie Award in 1969 for distinguished achievement in Off-Broadway theater. The next year he won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting, and in 1971 second prize at BITEF International Avant-Garde Festival in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, for Bluebeard. In 1973 Ludlam collected an Obie for acting in both Corn and Camille. A special Obie followed in 1975 for Professor Bedlam’s Educational Punch and Judy Show. In addition to a Playwriting award from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (1976), he won a Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Fellowship (1977) to coach graduate students in playwriting at Yale University and an Obie the same year for designing Der Ring Gott Farblonjet. Other awards included one for Excellence and Originality in Comedy from the Association of Comedy Artists (1978), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Playwriting (1982 and 1985), and a Drama Desk Special Award for Oustanding Achievement in Theater in 1983. The Mystery of Irma Vep won him a Maharam Foundation Award for Excellence in Design. In 1985 he won the Rosamund Gilder Award for distinguished achievement, and shortly before his death he was given an Obie for Sustained Achievement.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Brecht, Stefan. Queer Theatre. New York: Methuen Books, 1986. Despite the pedantic jargon and generalized, pontifical tone, this book contains a useful discussion of the positive and negative aspects of Ridiculous Theater. Focusing on Big Hotel and Conquest of the Universe, Brecht argues that the ambiguity of sexual identity is a basic variant of the role-playing theme.

Ludlam, Charles. “Interview: Charles Ludlam.” Interviewed by Gautam Dasgupta. Performing Arts Journal (Spring/Summer, 1978): 69. A discussion of the origin and techniques of Ludlam’s theater. Ludlam distinguishes between Ridiculous and other comic forms such as lampoon, parody, and satire. Touches on the political aspect of the Ridiculous.

Romer, Rick. Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1998. Offers a critical analysis of all the plays. Romer introduces Ludlam’s work, mission, and artistic sensibility by starting with a brief biography, then delving into the roots of the Ridiculous and countercultural movements of the 1960’s. Shows Ludlam as cultural scavenger with a penchant for “maximal art.”