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By Kenneth Koch


Directed and designed by Maria Pessino

Music by Roger Trefousse

Art by Larry Rivers

Lighting Design by Kameron Steele

Co-choreography by Ivan Catanese


At Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY




“I’ve noticed when I go to the theatre, unless it’s something very great, that within one or two minutes in the theatre, I get it. I noticed, also on television, when there are a number of movies on, that I can switch from one channel to another and be in the middle of three different movies and in 30 seconds I could be laughing or crying at what I see, that a great deal of the plot is being communicated in an already ongoing piece, very quickly. I wanted to get that part of drama, that part of theatre, on stage at least into these texts.”

— Kenneth Koch



Kenneth Koch (27 February 1925 – 6 July 2002) was an American poet, playwright, and professor, active from the 1950s until his death at age 77. He was a prominent poet of the New York School of poetry, a loose group of poets including Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery that eschewed contemporary introspective poetry in favor of an exuberant, cosmopolitan style that drew major inspiration from travel, painting, and music.

He attended Harvard University, where he met future New York School crony John Ashbery. After graduating from Harvard in 1948, and moving to New York City, Koch studied for and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996. Koch died from a year-long battle with leukemia in 2002.

While a student at Harvard, Koch won the prestigious Glascock Prize in 1948. In 1962, Koch was writer in residence at the New York City Writer's Conference at Wagner College.

The 1960s saw his first published books of poetry. He continued writing poetry and releasing books of poetry up until his death. Koch won the Bollingen Prize for One Train (1994) and On The Great Atlantic Rainway: Selected Poems 1950-1988 (1994), followed closely by the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award winner New Addresses (2000).

In 1970, Koch released a pioneering book in poetry education, Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children To Write Poetry. Over the next 30 years, he followed this book with other books and anthologies on poetry education tailored to teaching poetry appreciation and composition to children, adults, and the elderly.

Koch wrote hundreds of avant-garde plays over the course of his 50 year career, highlighted by drama collections like 1000 Avant-Garde Plays (1988), which only contains 116 plays, many of them only one scene or a few minutes in length. His prose work is highlighted by The Red Robins (1975), a sprawling novel about a group of fighter pilots flying for personal freedom under the leadership of Santa Claus. He also published a book of short stories, Hotel Lambosa (1988), loosely based on and inspired by his world travels. He also produced at least one libretto, and several of his poems have been set to music by composers.

Koch taught poetry at Columbia University, where his classes were popular. His wild humor and intense teaching style, often punctuated by unusual physicality (standing on a table to shout lines by Walt Whitman) and outbursts of vocal performance often drawn from Italian opera, drew non-English majors and alumni. Some of the spirit of these lectures is contained in his final book on poetry education, Making Your Own Days (1998). His students included poets Ron Padgett, David Shapiro, Alan Feldman, David Lehman, Jordan Davis, Jessy Randall, David Baratier, Loren Goodman.

His ideas were developed with close friends Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, along with painters Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers, among others.

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While the world seems to ripping apart in anger, however, I have been given a golden chance to enter the lyrical garden of Kenneth Koch. In it, I have found the blossom of promises and delight, the hues of humor, the sting of passion and the scent of regret. I have had the honor of traveling toward the Triumph of Love, in the company of generous and talented artists, who have lit my path. I have harvested hours of exquisite human contradictions, which have endeared me further yet to the fragility and the humbleness of our existence. Kenneth Koch died of leukemia during this production of One Thousand Avant-Garde Plays on July 6th, 2002


Maria Pessino, East Hampton, 2002.

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Roger Tréfousse writes a wide variety of music: film scores, operas and musicals, symphonic works and chamber music. Films include the HBO thriller Ladykiller and the PBS documentary, Jackson Pollock: Portrait. Television credits include The Guiding Light and As the World Turns (CBS).Two musicals have been produced in New York City, Snobs Cabaret at Encompass Music Theater and Hoosick Falls at The Theater for the New City.Selections from Raft of the Medusa, a work-in-progress, was featured in concert last spring by Downtown Music Productions. He has written incidental music for many plays, among them On the Verge (The Mark Taper Forum), A Husband’s Notes About Her (The Actors Studio) and 1000 Avant Garde Plays (The Robert Wilson Center). He has composed three operas: The Monkey Opera, premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Blue Margaritas, first performed at Experimental Interrmedia Foundation, and Found Objects, commissioned by the Mannes Opera Ensemble (The New School, New York City). Départ Malgache, the first section of a new opera with libretto by poet Kenneth Koch, was recently featured on the WNYC radio program The Next Big Thing. He has also written a broad range of instrumental music, including Column for English horn and orchestra, premiered in New York at The Juilliard School; Balanced Boulders for narrator, flute, tuba and percussion, commissioned by legendary downtown New York writer Spencer Holst in honor of the publication of his collected work, and performed at the Westbeth Theater; and Fantasy for flute, celesta and cello, commissioned for Ben Weber Remembered a retrospective concert produced by Miller Theater (Columbia University), with newly commissioned works by Lou Harrison, Ned Rorem and Milton Babbitt. After That was commissioned by renowned new-music interpreter Grete Sultan for a recording of new American piano music, including works written for her by John Cage and Stefan Wolpe. His film and concert music was recently showcased in Austin, Texas by the Austin Chamber Music Players. Recent publications include Listening to Pollock, an essay about composing the music for Jackson Pollock: Portrait, included in Such Desperate Joy (Thunders Mouth Press, 2001; edited by Helen Harrison, with an introduction by Ed Harris). Tréfousse is a member of ASCAP, The Dramatists Guild, New York Women in Film and Television and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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Larry Rivers

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and designer, a leading figure in the revival of figurative art that was one aspect of the reaction against the dominance of Abstract Expressionism. He was a professional jazz saxophonist in the early 1940s and began painting in 1945, studying at the Hans Hofmann School, 1947–8, and then at New York University under Baziotes in 1948. His work of the early and mid-1950s continued the vigorous painterly handling associated with Abstract Expressionism, but was very different in character. Some of his paintings were fairly straightforwardly naturalistic, but others looked forward to Pop art in their quotations from well-known advertising or artistic sources, their use of lettering, and their deadpan humour. An example is Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953, MoMA, New York), based on the picture by Leutze. In the late 1950s and 1960s his work came more clearly within the orbit of Pop, sometimes incorporating cut-out cardboard or wooden forms, electric lights, and so on, but his sensuous handling of paint set him apart from other Pop artists. Occasionally he painted portraits (Mr Art (Portrait of David Sylvester), 1962, NPG, London). Rivers also made sculpture, collages, and prints, designed for the stage, acted, and wrote poetry.


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Kameron Steele (Lighting Designer)

Previous design work with Oddfellows Playhouse for Your Wait in Gold (Long House). Since 1990, Kameron has worked as an actor, director and designer, most notably with Robert Wilson and Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki at the Lincoln Center Festival, Bam Next Wave and various other festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. At the Watermill Center in 2000 he started The South Wing Theatre Company with Ivana Catanese, and has since presented works in NYC at HERE, PS122, The Public, LMCC, the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and Japan Society. Kameron is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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Ivana Catanese (Director)

Previously for Oddfellows Playhouse: Your Wait in Gold & Labyrinth (Long House) and RRR (Benson & Keys Gallery). After graduating from UNC, Mendoza, Argentina where she founded the alvarez-catanese-ponce company, whose adaptation of Sartre’s No Exit (A Puerta Cerrada) toured to the New Trends Festival in Buenos Aires and to the Casa de las Americas Festival in Havana, Cuba. From 2000-2007 she worked at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, where she co-founded The South Wing Theatre Company (TSW) and has since acted, produced, written and directed on the company’s works in Europe, the Americas and Japan. In April 2011 she will present her adaptation of Kobo Abe’s Secret Rendezvous at HERE Arts Center, NYC.

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Janice Bishop, Rodrigo Cameron, Lydia Franco-Hodges, Diane Grotke, Tomas Majchersky, Skye Qi Marigold, Maria Pessino, Robert Salas, Ines Somellera, Evan Thomas

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