Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

The Civilians Presents Claire Kiechel's PAUL SWAN IS DEAD AND GONE

The Civilians Presents Claire Kiechel's PAUL SWAN IS DEAD AND GONE

The Civilians, under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson and Managing Director Margaret Moll, is proud to present the world premiere of Paul Swan is Dead and Gone by Claire Kiechel, a former member of The Civilians' R&D Group where the play was first developed. Directed by Cosson and starring Tony Torn as the real-life Paul Swan, the production marks Kiechel's New York debut and runs April 25 - May 19, with an opening night set for May 1. For an audience of only 30, the intimate and immersive performance takes place at Torn Page (435 West 22nd Street, Manhattan), a salon-style performance space located inside a historic Chelsea townhouse originally purchased by Torn's parents, Geraldine Page and Rip Torn.

Dancing as a young man in Europe, Paul Swan (1883-1972) was billed as "The Most Beautiful Man in the World." 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. While he 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.

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. Each night, The Civilians' production offers a small audience an intimate, immersive salon experience.

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 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).

Performances of Paul Swan is Dead and Gone will take place April 25-May 19 at Torn Page, located at 435 West 22nd Street in Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of April 27 for an opening on Wednesday, May 1. Tickets, priced at $25-$60, can be purchased by visiting or by calling 212-352-3101.

About the Artists

Claire Kiechel (playwright) has been thinking about this play since she first heard about her great grand uncle Paul Swan as a child. She began developing Paul Swan is Dead & Gone in the 2015-16 R&D group and is delighted that it will be the first R&D premiere produced by The Civilians. Her other plays include Sophia (Alley Theatre All-New Festival 2019); the haunted (City Theatre's Momentum Festival, additional development at Seattle Rep); Pilgrims (The Gift Theatre; Alley All New Reading Series; The Lark's Playwrights' Week 2016; The Kilroys' The List 2016); Lulu Is Hungry with composer Avi Amon at Ars Nova's ANT Fest 2016; and Some Dark Places of the Earth at The New School for Drama. She has received commissions from Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alley Theatre, and South Coast Rep. She has a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from the New School for Drama. She currently lives between Brooklyn and LA where she has written for television (Netflix's The OA, HBO's Watchmen).

Steve Cosson (director) Recently: Encores! Off-Center revival of Gone Missing, director of Jill Sobule's musical Times Square, book/director The Abominables at Children's Theater Company, writer/director The Undertaking at BAM Next Wave, US tour, Theatre de la Ville, Paris and 59E59; director José Rivera's Another Word for Beauty, (Goodman Theatre); writer/director, Rimbaud in New York (BAM); director Michael Friedman and Bess Wohl's Pretty Filthy; director The Belle of Amherst starring Joely Richardson. Recent world premieres: writer/director The Great Immensity (The Public Theater); Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (Playwrights Horizons). Other Civilians shows: In the Footprint; writer/director This Beautiful City at Vineyard Theatre and several regional; (I am) Nobody's Lunch and Gone Missing with several US and UK productions and a one-year run Off Broadway at Barrow Street. In 2014-15, The Civilians were the first theater company in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dan Safer (choreography) is Artistic Director of Witness Relocation and has directed/choreographed all of their shows, ranging from fully scripted plays to original dance/theater pieces to many things in between. Dan choreographed and co-directed the acclaimed Ubu Sings Ubu with Tony Torn (Abrons, Slipper Room, American Rep, BB King's, Highline Ballroom). His work as a choreographer has been at BAM, DTW, Danspace, Ash Lawn Opera, and many other places. In 2011, he choreographed Stravinsky's Rite of Spring for Philadelphia Orchestra with Obie-winners Ridge Theater. Artforum magazine called him "pure expressionistic danger" and Time Out New York called him "a purveyor of lo-fi mayhem." Currently, he is faculty at MIT. He got kicked out of high school for a year, used to be a go-go dancer, and once choreographed the Queen of Thailand's Birthday Party.

About the cast

Tony Torn (Paul Swan) is an actor, director, and associate artist of The Civilians, with whom he appeared in Rimbaud in New York directed by Steven Cosson at BAM. He is known for the rock musical Ubu Sings Ubu - which he created, starred in, and co-directed with Dan Safer, and for his work with legendary experimental theater directors Reza Abdoh and Richard Foreman. Recent Stage includes Franklin in Jean-Claude van Itallie's The Fat Lady Sings at La Mama; Ensemble in Suzan-Lori Parks' Venus at The Signature Theater; The King in Ben Beckley's Latter Days with Dutch Kills Theater at Ars Nova; Stefano in The Tempest at La Mama; Porfiery in Platonov, or The Disinherited at The Kitchen; Rusty Trawler in Breakfast at Tiffany's on Broadway at The Cort Theater. Torn manages Torn Page, an event space dedicated to his parents the actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page

Helen Cespedes (Flora) credits include The Cripple of Inishmaan (Broadway), The Rose Tattoo (benefit for The Acting Company with Patti LuPone and Bobby Cannavale), The School For Scandal (Red Bull), A Picture of Autumn (The Mint), and Couriers and Contrabands (Timeline). Regional credits include Doug McGrath's world premiere adaptation of The Age of Innocence directed by Doug Hughes (McCarter/Hartford), Taking Steps (Barrington Stage Co.), The Women of Padilla (Two River), the world premiere of José Rivera's Another Word for Beauty (Goodman Theatre and NYSF), The Importance of Being Earnest (Williamstown and The Old Globe), world premiere of Beth Henley's Laugh and Tribes (Studio Theatre), Love's Labour's Lost(Chautauqua). Film/TV: The Way I Remember It, The Knick. Helen trained at The Juilliard School where she received the John Houseman Prize.

Robert M. Johanson (Bellamy) is a freelance performer/composer/director in New York City. He is a founding member of Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and has performed with them in No Dice, Poetics: a Ballet Brut, Romeo and Juliet, and No President. Robert also composed music for and performed in Nature Theater's epic cycle Life and Times: Episodes 1-9, part of which won an Obie award in 2013. Johanson has worked with many other companies both in New York City and abroad including: Elevator Repair Service, 7 Daughters of Eve, Radiohole, Witness Relocation, Jim Findlay, Von Krahli, Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, Teater Ibsen and Spreafico Eckly. He is a frequent teacher at the Norwegian Theatre Academy and has directed and composed music for his own music theater pieces Life is Hard and Life is Very Hard in Norway and Estonia.

Alexis Scott (Paula) has spent the last decade acting in new play premieres from New York to Austin to Seattle. She continues to tour with the Johnny LaGuardia's Trinitron Mixtape, a live film by Bug Davidson that premiered at Fusebox Festival. Recently, she starred in Triggered by Gabriel Jason Dean at Cherry Lane Theatre, the first of the Amoralists' Ricochet series. She received her BA in Performance Studies from Brown University and her MFA in Acting from The University of Texas at Austin where she has also served as Acting faculty. Scott teaches with the Jewish Performing Arts Center of Brooklyn and will tour next year with a new play in development with Little Green Pig in Durham.


More Hot Stories For You

TheaterWorksUSA to Present THE LIGHTNING THIEF Theatre for Young Audiences Edition at Five Angels TheaterTheaterWorksUSA to Present THE LIGHTNING THIEF Theatre for Young Audiences Edition at Five Angels Theater
September 30, 2022

TheaterWorksUSA new, 60-minute production of The Lightning Thief: Theatre for Young Audiences Edition will perform in New York City before heading out on its quest around the country. Performing two shows only on October 1, 3 PM and 7 PM at Five Angels Theater.

Riley Elton McCarthy's THE LESBIAN PLAY Will Receive Industry Reading at ART/NYRiley Elton McCarthy's THE LESBIAN PLAY Will Receive Industry Reading at ART/NY
September 30, 2022

Basement Light Productions is set to host a closed industry reading of Riley Elton McCarthy's THE LESBIAN PLAY, directed by Colleen Morgen, at ART/NY's South Oxford Space on November 30th at 7:30PM ahead of an OFF-BROADWAY opening of the production at The Triad Theater in June 2023. The Triad Theater production will be the first fully realized staged production of The Lesbian Play and feature a deeply revised, never before-seen version of the script.

N.A. Premiere Of Serge Aimé Coulibaly's WAKATT Comes to NYU SkirballN.A. Premiere Of Serge Aimé Coulibaly's WAKATT Comes to NYU Skirball
September 30, 2022

​​​​​​​NYU Skirball will present the North American premiere of Faso Danse Théâtre's Wakatt, choreographed by Serge Aimé Coulibaly with live music by Magic Malik Orchestra, on Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12 at 7:30 pm at NYU Skirball.

Julia VanderVeen Resurrects Award-Winning, Absurd Clown Comedy MY GRANDMOTHER'S EYEPATCH, October 23 & 30Julia VanderVeen Resurrects Award-Winning, Absurd Clown Comedy MY GRANDMOTHER'S EYEPATCH, October 23 & 30
September 29, 2022

What happens when an idiot leads a memorial service for a long-deceased family member? In this off-the-wall-comedy, clown, improvisor, and magician Julia VanderVeen leads the audience through wild stages of grief as she attempts to honor her long dead Grandmother.

Rob Asaro's New Play LOST AGAIN Plays The Tank November 2-16Rob Asaro's New Play LOST AGAIN Plays The Tank November 2-16
September 29, 2022

An unlikely pair travel cross-country in Rob Asaro's new play Lost Again. The limited run plays November 2 - 16 at The Tank in New York City. The production is directed by Jay Michaels.