The Civilians Announce Paul Swan Salons With Penny Arcade, Josef Astor, And More

The Civilians Announce Paul Swan Salons With Penny Arcade, Josef Astor, And More

The Civilians, under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson and Managing Director Margaret Moll, is proud to announce a series of lively and engaging post-show salons that will follow select performances of Claire Kiechel's Paul Swan is Dead and Gone. Luminaries from the world of arts and letters will speak on various themes relevant to Paul Swan's life and work including his residency in the Carnegie Hall studios, queer performance, and mid-century ideas of camps.

Participants include the Director of Archives and the Rose Museum of Carnegie Hall Gino Francesconi (May 7), former Carnegie Hall artist studio residents photographer Josef Astor and actor and filmmaker Billy Lyons (May 10), writer and performance Trav S.D (May 14), gender-queer artist Kris Grey (May 17), and performance artist Penny Arcade (May 18).

Directed by Steve Cosson and starring Tony Torn, Paul Swan is Dead and Gone is an intimate and immersive performance that resurrects Paul Swan (1883-1972) who began his career dancing as a young man in Europe and was billed as "The Most Beautiful Man in the World." For an audience of only 30, performances take place at Torn Page (435 West 22nd St), a salon-style performance space located inside a historic Chelsea townhouse owned by the Torn family and once occupied by Tony Torn's parents, Geraldine Page and Rip Torn, beginning in 1964. The limited engagement opened on May 1 and must close on May 19.

While Swan never achieved the recognition, he desired as a modern Renaissance man-painter, sculptor, poet, dancer, etc.-he achieved a different kind of fame, largely through weekly salons held in his studio atop Carnegie Hall, every Saturday from the 1930s through the '60s. As the years progressed (and as Swan added layers of pancake make-up and black shoe polish to his hair), the tragic, the camp and the sublime intertwined to create his greatest artwork-himself. Decades later, as an old man still wearing the same revealing neo-classical costumes, he looked into Andy Warhol's camera and declared, "I am the most famous unknown person in New York." In fact, Swan became an object of fascination for Warhol who featured him in his 1965 films Camp and Paul Swan.

Playwright Kiechel has a personal stake in Paul Swan; he is her great-great uncle, a bisexual/gay, multi-disciplinary artist who saw himself as a modern Renaissance man. And in Paul Swan is Dead and Gone, she resurrects her ancestor's salon and re-imagines it as an electrically charged theatrical space where the forces of life, death, and art do battle.

As the audience crosses the threshold into a Chelsea brownstone, they will be transported to the aesthetic world of Swan's creation brought to life by actors Tony Torn, Robert M. Johanson, Helen Cespedes, and Alexis Scott, along with designers Andromache Chalfant (sets), An-Lin Dauber (costumes), Lucrecia Briceño (lights), and Avi Amon (sound). The production also features original music by Amon and Johanson.

Paul Swan is Dead and Gone marks the first time The Civilians has premiered a new work that had originated in its nine-year-old R&D Group of which Kiechel was a 2015-2016 member. The production also marks The Civilians' first original production since the passing of co-founder Michael Friedman (1975-2017).

Tickets, priced at $25-$60, can be purchased by visiting thecivilians.org or by calling 212-352-3101.


A popular tour guide and storyteller, Gino Francesconi has spent more than 30 years expertly piecing together Carnegie Hall's amazing history as the Hall's first archivist and Director of Carnegie Hall's Rose Museum.

Francesconi began working for Carnegie Hall in 1974 as an usher while studying to be a conductor and pianist. He also previously worked in the Hall's house manager's office, box office, subscription office, and one summer as a security guard. He then became the backstage attendant for more than 2,600 events

In 1984, Francesconi left to further his music studies in Italy. He returned to the Hall in 1986 when Carnegie Hall's then-executive director, Judith Arron, offered him the position of establishing the Hall's first archives. Carnegie Hall's Rose Museum opened in 1991. In addition to a rotating exhibition on the history of the Hall, Francesconi has since curated more than 35 exhibitions in the museum, coinciding with events in the Hall, displaying more than $100 million worth of music manuscripts, many never before on display in the United States, including 15 of Beethoven's piano sonatas, Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, all of Mahler's symphonies, and sketches for the Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky.

Josef Astor launched his career in 1985 in a studio above Carnegie Hall. He drew immediate acclaim for his theatrically staged, historically informed portraits of artists from the world of music, art, architecture, dance, and theatre. His photographs have appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, among many other publications. Astor's work has been widely collected and exhibited : 'Vanity Fair Portraits' at the National Portrait Gallery in London, 'The Digital Darkroom' at the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A. 'Displaced Persons' a solo show at Participant Gallery in New York City, featuring many downtown performers from the 1980's. His 'Vanity Fair' architects portraits were recently on view at le Cite de l'architecture in Paris. He was recipient of the prestigious Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, among other recognitions. He directed his first documentary feature 'Lost Bohemia' which premiered in 2010, and won a Special Jury Prize at DOC-NYC Festival. At present Josef is completing a documentary about Dr Donald Shirley - "Let It Shine - Donald Shirley In His Own Words" Astor is an adjunct professor the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Billy Lyons is a NYC based actor, director, teacher, producer, and filmmaker. His first film, It Takes a Lunatic, a feature length documentary about the life and career of renowned acting teacher and artistic director Wynn Handman and The American Place Theatre, will premiere at the 18th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in May. As part of The American Place Theatre's literacy program, Literature to Life, Billy toured extensively in a one-person adaptation of The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, directed by Wynn Handman, during which time he worked closely with Vietnam Veterans. Lyons is Mr. Handman's assistant and teaches acting at his private studio, which was located above Carnegie Hall until 2008, at which time the artist tenants were forced by the Carnegie Hall Corporation to leave their longtime studios. A graduate of Ithaca College (BFA Acting), he has performed regionally and Off-Broadway at The Irish Rep.

Writer/ performer Trav S.D. is best known for his book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous and his popular show biz blog Travalanche. His plays and performance pieces have been produced at La MaMa, Joe's Pub, Theater for the New City, Dixon Place, HERE, et al, and he acted most recently in Jason Trachtenburg's Lee Harvey Oswald musical Me and Lee at the Brick. His next project is the Weber & Fields CD "The Mike and Meyer Files", for which he wrote liner notes, released by Archeophone Records in May 2019.

Kris Grey is a New York City based gender-queer artist whose cultural work includes curatorial projects, performance, writing, and studio production. Grey was a Fire Island Artist Residency recipient, a resident artist for the ANTI Festival for Contemporary Art in Kupoio, Finland, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, and a teaching artist at The International Centre for Training in the Performing Arts in Brussels, Belgium. In addition to their individual practice, Grey collaborates with Maya Ciarrocchi under the moniker Gender/Power. Gender/Power has been awarded a Baryshnikov Art Center residency, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council residency, a Franklin Furnace grant, a MAP Fund Grant, and the Moving Towards Justice cohort award at Gibney Dance. Grey's writing has been published in print and on the web for Huffington Post and Original Plumbing. Their latest writing, Trans*feminism: fragmenting and re-reading the history of art through a trans* perspective, written in collaboration with Jennie Klein, was published in Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories. Grey earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a MFA from Ohio University. They perform, teach, and exhibit work internationally. Kristingrey.com


Penny Arcade is an internationally respected writer, poet, performance and theater maker. With a career spanning 50 years, she is known for her magnetic stage presence and her high content, highly quotable writing. She has written over 16 full-length shows and hundreds of solo performance art pieces. She practices long form, text based performance art, a form of experimental theatre that investigates the boundaries between traditional theatre and performance. Her decades long focus on the creation of community as the goal of performance and her use of performance as a transformative act mark her as a true original on the world stage and an icon of artistic resistance. A teenage Andy Warhol Factory Superstar, featured in the Warhol/Morrisey film Women In Revolt, Penny debuted at 18 in John Vaccaro's explosive Playhouse of The Ridiculous, the seminal, queer, rock and roll, political theatre that influenced many things from Hair to Punk to Bowie. A hard cover book on her work, Bad Reputation, was published by Semiotexte Press 2010. www.pennyarcade.tv

Torn Page is an event space and classroom in Chelsea located in the historic home of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page Recent productions at Torn Page include the award-winning production of The Only Jealousy of Emer (Best Design, Origin Theater Festival 2018); The So-Fi Theater Festival featuring "low-fi, high concept" solo performances, the whimsical Poetry Nap which recently returned for encore shows in March, and Dover from writer-director Matthew Gasda. Torn Page is also home to the film series Speakeasy Cinema, awarded "Best Surprise Movie Date" in The Village Voice's Best of NYC 2016, and the Page Poetry Parlor reading series, hosted by Tender Buttons Press. Visit tornpage.org for more information.



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