Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Theater: The Cockettes & The Angels of Light

Hibiscus (George Harris III)
Scrapbook (detail), 1966-68
Mixed media scrapbook, 8 x 10 in (closed)
Private collection

Part commune, part theater troupe, the Cockettes performed lavish stage acts regularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s at San Francisco’s Palace Theatre to a large, cult following. Maintaining little distinction between art and life, gay and straight, or male and female, they wore their exuberant, handmade outfits in both everyday life and on stage.
According to poet Allen Ginsberg, “The Cockettes brought out into the street what was in the closet, in terms of theatrical dress and imaginative theater.” Exploring sexual expression and gender identity, the Cockettes invented new forms of glamor that became influential for the following decades.

In 1971, an ideological rift over the question of whether or not performances should be free of charge created the splinter troupe, the Angels of Light Free Theater. The Angels of Light carried on the outrageous sartorial style and the blurring of gender and sexual boundaries into the late 1970s with numerous hit shows from Peking on Acid (1972) to Paris Sights Under the Bourgeois Sea (1975).

Filmmaker Mary Jordan is currently working on a film on the Angels of Light. Catch a glimpse below.


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