Ain Gordon's 217 BOXES OF DR. HENRY ANONYMOUS Begins Performances 5/3
Dr. John Fyer is a seminal but little-known LGBT civil rights pioneer and is memorialized in the play 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous written and directed by three-time Obie award-winning playwright Ain Gordon. Originally commissioned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and underwritten by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Pick Up Performance Co(s) production is presented by Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization. Initially set to run May 3 - 9, producers have added an additional two performance through May 11 to accommodate the demand at Baryshnikov Arts Center's Jerome Robbins Theater (450 West 37th Street). Tickets are $40 and can be purchased by visiting www.217boxes.com. More details to follow on partner organizations for upcoming nightly talkbacks.
Before 1972, homosexuality was considered a mental illness in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Doctors prescribed a variety of reparative therapies including chemical castration, electric shock, mental institutionalization and lobotomies. The classification was used by government to justify statutes and regulations that marginalized homosexuals. Combing over the 217 boxes of notes and research left by psychiatrist Dr. John Fryer, 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous is a compelling play about Fryer and his galvanizing testimony at the 1972 APA Annual Meeting which led to homosexuality's removal from the DSM, considered one of the most significant moments in the history of the gay-rights movement. Because of the grave consequences that could befall an openly gay psychiatrist including loss of medical license, Fryer used a pseudonym, mask and voice modulator to address his colleagues.
The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Annual Meeting is taking place from May 5 to 9, 2018 at the Javits Convention Center, steps away from the Baryshnikov Arts Center and is expected to attract over15,000 national and international attendees. This year's meeting marks the 45th Anniversary of the APA removing homosexuality as an illness from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The APA meeting will include a panel about Dr. Fryer and conversion/reparative therapy. Saul Levin, Medical Director, APA, the first openly gay head of the organization will participate in a Talk Back following the Friday, May 4th performance.
The cast includes Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Obie Award winner Laura Esterman (Marvin's Room), Derek Lucci, and Broadway veteran Ken Marks (Mamma Mia!, Dear Evan Hansen, Dancing at Lughnasa, Hairspray) with a creative team that includes Nick Ryckert (Lighting and Projection Design), Ed Fitzgerald (Production Stage Manager) Meredith Boggia (Associate Producer) and produced by Alyce Dissette and Ain Gordon.
Dr. John FRYER graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1962. After entering a psychiatry residency at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, he was discharged when it was learned that he was homosexual. He completed his residency at a Pennsylvania mental hospital and became a private practitioner and psychiatry professor at Temple University School of Medicine. In the late 1960s, seminal gay pioneers Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings focused on overturning the federal government's ban on gay and lesbian employees and the APA's classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. Because of societal approbation, risk of loss of medical licensure, and impact on patients and professional standing, Kameny and Gittings could not find a psychiatrist to serve on the panel. Ultimately, Fryer agreed to serve on the panel using the name Dr. Henry Anonymous and disguised with a mask and voice modulator. His testimony was so compelling that the APA convened a special committee to study the classification. At the 1973 Annual Meeting, the membership voted to remove homosexuality as a mental illness. As a result, the treatments for homosexuality were terminated and the classification could not be used to justify government policy. Fryer was also one of the first psychiatrists to treat patients with HIV and those with AIDS related bereavement issues. The APA's highest annual civil rights award is named in John Fryer's memory. There is a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic marker for John Fryer in Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania houses the John Fryer archives.
Ain Gordon (Playwright/ Director) is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting. Gordon's work focuses on marginalized or forgotten histories and the invisible players inhabiting that space. Recent Projects include Radicals In Miniature; a series of requiems to personal icons premiered May 2017 at Baryshnikov Arts Center and Vermont Performance Lab plus upcoming touring to International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Quick Center, Connecticut College (all CT), plus Williams College and The Yard (both MA); 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous culminating a two-year residency at the Historic Society of Pennsylvania funded by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage focused on the papers of Dr. John Fryer who, disguised as Dr. Anonymous, faced the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 opposing the classification of homosexuality as a disease - premiered Painted Bride Arts Center (PA) May 2015; Not What Happened, an examination of the politics of historical reenactment via a contrapuntal duet for two people that never meet: the historical reenactor and the woman she portrays - BAM Next Wave Festival September 2013, Krannert Center (IL), Flynn Center (VT), etc; and If She Stood inspired by the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society; a multiracial collective that almost accidentally discovered feminism - May 2012 Painted Bride (PA). Gordon is a former Core Writer of the Playwright's Center (MN), was the inaugural Visiting Artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (PA), a 2014 Artist-In-Residence at NYU Tisch School of The Arts, and Resident Artist at The Hermitage (FL). Gordon is Co-Founder of the Urban Memory Project and has been Co-Director of the Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1992. www.aingordon.nyc.
EQUALITY FORUM (Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director) is the nation's leading LGBT history organization. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month nationally and internationally, spearheads the placement of LGBT historic markers, and is the producer of documentary films. Each day of October, LGBT History Month celebrates a different LGBT icon with a video, biography, bibliography and downloads. Launched in 2006, this free web resource offers archived information on 372 previously featured LGBT Icons, searchable from a cloud of 150 descriptors. John Fryer is among them. Applying for and overseeing installment of government-approved, nationally significant LGBT historic markers is among Equality Forum's key initiatives. The John Fryer historic marker, dedicated on October 3, 2017, stands at the intersection of 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia. Equality Forum has produced two documentaries, JIM IN BOLD and Saint of 9/11 and co-produced Gay Pioneers with WHYY/PBS.
PICK UP PERFORMANCE CO(s): Founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1978 (as Pick Up Performance Co) to facilitate projects created by David Gordon, the company was expanded in 1992 to include projects by Ain Gordon, and subsequently renamed Pick Up Performance Co(s.) in recognition of plural artistic leadership and projects created independently by each of the artists. Pick Up Performance Co(s) continues to produce work at venues including BAM Next Wave Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Vermont Performance Lab, International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts among many others.
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