Although he had aspirations to become both a farmer and a clown, his mother recognized his artistic talent and thought it was more practical for him to attend Strabenmuller Textile High School where learned to design fabrics. After graduating and feeling he had nothing to say as a painter, he decided to become a dancer because he saw them as free spirits. He became a founding member of the company and did publicity and designed flyers as well as danced with them. For the first eight years with the company he also designed costumes and collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg on the productions of Springweather and People and Minutiae. As a member of the company he was also an artist-in-residence at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where he met many influential artists and thinkers of the time.
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Colin Creveling on top and Paul Loper. Remy Charlip was an unstoppable multitalented gay artist, dancer, performer, illustrator, costumer, and more. He collaborated with many of the giants of the pop art era yet somehow managed to remain in their shadows even after receiving his own accolades, such as two Obie Awards and being named a National Treasure by the Library of Congress.
Charlip RC was never as famous as his peers, due in part to the diversity of his talents, yet he produced alongside them, equally gifted and as much a trendsetter.
Where to begin? The stage is divided between a toy playhouse downstage—whose curtains open and close like a magic act—housing puppets, scenery, stick figures and paper cutouts.
In front of the playhouse sits a video camera, which projects the ever-changing interior of the playhouse Ian Winters, video designer onto a square scrim upstage. Stage lighting Jim Cave is also projected on the scrim allowing performers to create an additional dimension when standing behind it—becoming part of the live action video projection.
Behind the scrim they create various tableaus, while between playhouse and scrim the majority of performances take place. Colin Creveling—a talented circus performer—plays a young precocious RC to the striking Paul Loper, as his drunk father and Molly Shaiken, as the supportive mother. Art aficionados will particularly enjoy the insider-art humor that is folded into much of the dialogue and characters. The opening family scenes appear the most like a work-in-process, lacking the rhythm and confidence that come in later episodes.
Lighting is flat, uncomfortable pauses linger between dialogues; conversations that are sometimes blasted out by a Brooklyn soundscape playing in the background. Granted these early scenes have the weight of introducing so many different elements and are tethered by the imposed chronology.
Relief and magic open up as the leads start taking on their multiple roles, gallivanting at a quicker clip through RC colorful history. Vignettes come and go, as do cameos of famous people, with Creveling at one point playing an office secretary speaking gibberish like a chipmunk on helium. He is spry in both movement and vocal range, and is energetically consistent throughout.
Loper is solid as the aging RC, quoting RC as if written for him. The two of them flow beautifully together in act two when the young and old RC engage in a deft pas de deux that morphs into a third RC—the one in between. Even with several multifaceted interviews woven throughout, from an assortment of family and friends, an intimate connection to the person paradoxically feels missing.
The young Remy Charlip is portrayed Peter Pan-like with an emotional range that seems much like the puppet in hand—unemotionally affected in any substantial way from the abuse and neglect perpetrated by his alcoholic father other than a sad face.
Similarly, his mother is presented as a saint who encourages his artistic path but was that all she was? Was she an enabler, overbearing, emotionally needy? Yet they mostly pass by like a dropped name, sometimes as one dimensional as the stick figures. In doing so it leans more to the side of performance art than theatrical drama. Yes, even with all the artistic display that is so elaborately presented I want to know, who was Remy Charlip?
David E. Moreno David E. His commentaries on yoga have been featured in an assortment of yoga journals and magazines, and he is the producer of yoga DVDs and eBooks.
Rainbow Logic: Arm and Arm with Remy Charlip
Remy Charlip (1929-2012)
Arm in Arm