Rochelle Bass Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Rochelle Owens was born Rochelle Bass, daughter of Maxwell and Molly (Adler) Bass. Reared in Brooklyn, Owens was educated in New York City public schools and was graduated from Lafayette High School in 1953. She was married to David Owens in 1956 and divorced in 1959. She began writing poetry early. When George Economou saw “Groshl Monkeys Horses” in a 1960 issue of Yugen, he invited her to submit some of her poems to Trobar, which he had just begun editing with Robert Kelly. She sent him a packet of verse, many of the poems appearing in Trobar (II), including “Humble humble pinati.” Trobar Press also brought out her first book of poems, Not Be Essence That Cannot Be (1961), simultaneously with Paul Blackburn’s The Nets. In 1962, Owens and Economou were married, and many of her books subsequently have been dedicated to her husband, a poet in his own right, who has also appeared in some of her plays (he played the Robed Man, for example, in Istanboul).

Although written several years earlier, Futz was first produced by the Tyrone Guthrie Workshop in Minneapolis on October 10, 1965, where it played for a single performance. Later revised, it was produced in New York by the Café La Mama Theatre Troupe on March 1, 1967. During this period, several other plays were produced in New York and elsewhere. On February 12, 1965, the Judson Poets Theatre produced The String Game, and on September 12, Istanboul. Andre Gregory produced Beclch at the Theatre of the Living Arts with the Southwark Theatre Company in Philadelphia on December 20, 1966. The controversial production was at least in part responsible for the termination of relations...

(The entire section is 711 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rochelle Owens emerged as an early leader of the Off-Broadway underground experimental theater of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Her use of primordial character types, scatological and obscene language, and perverse sexual relationships, including bestiality and sadomasochism, was surreal and shocking. This free use of language and sex, juxtaposed with wit and humor, satirized traditional American values and reflected the social unrest and free-speech movement of the day.

Born to postal clerk Maxwell Bass and Molly (Adler) Bass in Brooklyn, Rochelle graduated from Lafayette High School in 1953. She then attended the Herbert Berghof Studio and New School for Social Research, and she immersed herself in the developing Greenwich Village counterculture. There she met and married David Owens in 1956. Her poetry had begun to attract attention, so when her marriage ended in 1959 she retained the name Rochelle Owens professionally. One of her early poems, “Groshl Monkeys Horses,” led Trobar editor George Economou to publish her first collection of poetry, Not Be Essence That Cannot Be. She married Economou in 1962.

Owens’s guttural and violent poetry is often described as “evolving organically” into her plays. Her free use of language and time, with characters spewing raw emotion and humor, resulted in 1965 productions of The String Game and Obie Award-winning Istanboul at the Judson Poets Theatre, Beclch at Philadelphia’s Theatre of the Living Arts in 1966, and Homo in 1966 at the Café LaMama Theatre. The Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis gave Futz a workshop production in 1965, which led to a revised...

(The entire section is 695 words.)