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Jean Claude van Itallie, A Fable

Charles Ruas and Jean Claude van Itallie play catch-up and reminisce about the 1960s/70s New York theater scene. They talk about van Itallie’s influence on current theater practices and what it’s like to be a part of an evolving art form, such as theater. The playwright discusses his latest creative ventures, which includes holistic practices and his ongoing commitment to being a “creator”.

This interview marks the introduction to an historic interview between Ruas, van Itallie, and the cast and crewmembers of the playwright’s A Fable. They talk shop about Off-Off Broadway productions and players, as well as other contemporary thematic concerns. They discuss how the concept of collaboration was imperative to the production of van Itallie’s play.

Just as the notion of the body was embraced in the 1960s, van Itallie explains how words and collective working influenced A Fable, in the 1970s. He expounds upon the use of form and words in lieu of traditional, theater-based story telling techniques. While recognizing that fairy tales influenced him, he explains how he reinvented the structure of a conventional story about a protagonist on a quest. His use of language and repetition became formalistic, theatrical devices in and of themselves. Van Itallie also sheds light on the Open Theater and the renegade theater companies, such as La Mama, that rejected the conservative creative process of Broadway and Off Broadway productions.

The play’s company, Paul Zimet, Charles Stanley, Bernie Duffy, Shami Chaikin, and Joy Serin talk about how they challenged gender roles and casting while working on the play. They explain their perspective on the function of writer and how it’s different from previous productions. Segments from the actors’ rehearsal and a live performance are also integrated into the recording.

A Fable is an adult version of a “once upon a time” story. It follows the quest of a determined Journeyer from the village of People Who Fish in a Lake. She (the Journeyer) was sent by her king to track down the beast that that has instilled terror in their community, thereby eradicating the era of Golden Time. On her journey, she encounters Ghost, Hermit, and her own inner beast. A Fable opened in New York City at the Exchange Theater in the Westbeth Artists Housing Building, October 21st, 1975. The play was written by Jean Claude van Itallie, directed by Joseph Chaikin, and Richard Peaslee did the score.

Originally recorded in 1975, this program has been restored by The Clocktower Radio; with the assistance of Charles Ruas.


Historic Audio from the Archives of Charles Ruas


An unparalleled collection of recovered and restored programs from the seventies produced by Charles Ruas, and featuring Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Anaïs Nin, William Boroughs, Buckminster Fuller, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges, among numerous others.