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Mary Helen Still

(b Charleston, MA, Feb 24, 1858; d New York, NY, May 3, 1897). American composer and actor. Often working with the librettist J. Cheever Goodwin, he produced several scores for Broadway productions in the 1890s. He studied harmony at the Boston Conservatory, and following his graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he traveled to Paris and studied art under Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean-Jacques Henner, among others. After returning to America, he began to compose musical plays and operettas. He convinced the producer Augustin Daly to underwrite his first musical play, Cinderella at School (1881), which, although a popular success, was not well received by critics. In 1884 he began to collaborate with Goodwin, and their partnership produced six crowd- and critic-pleasing operettas. His adaptation of Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’étoile (1890), produced by and starring the actor Francis Wilson, caught the attention of Richard D’Oyly Carte who engaged Ivan Caryll to further rework the operetta for the Savoy Theatre in ...

Article

John Koegel

[Samaniego, José Ramón Gil ]

(b Durango, Mexico, Feb 6, 1899; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 30, 1968). Film actor and singer of Mexican birth. He moved to Southern California with his family during the Mexican Revolution in the later 1910s, and worked in Hollywood as an extra in such silent films as Cecil B. De Mille’s 1916 epi c Joan the Woman (with Metropolitan Opera star Geraldine Farrar). By the early 1920s he was starring in high-budget films such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) and Scaramouche (1923). In the later 1920s, as one of MGM’s biggest stars, he appeared as the romantic lead in a series of dramas and comedies, notably in Ben Hur (1925) and Ernst Lubitsch’s silent version of The Student Prince (1927). He also performed as a singer and dancer in three early MGM film musicals by the composer-lyricist team of Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey: ...

Article

Stephen Ruppenthal

revised by Joanna R. Smolko

[James Calwell, Jr. ]

(b Reading, PA, March 21, 1945; d Philadelphia, PA, April 6, 1992). American performance artist, composer, writer, and arts administrator. He studied sculpture at the University of Texas, Austin (BFA 1968), and at the University of California, Berkeley (MFA 1972). As an administrator he cofounded and was vice president and curator of the performance space, 80 Langton Street (San Francisco, 1975–6, later renamed New Langton Arts), and was a trustee of the San Francisco Art Institute (1975–8). As artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1976–7) he created the visual installation Light Weight Phantoms; and in 1977 he joined the sculpture department of San Francisco State University. He acted as consultant to museums and galleries and to the NEA, and his performances and sound sculptures have been presented in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1979), the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art (...

Article

John C. MacInnis

(b London, England, Dec 27, 1911; d Batemans Bay, Australia, Oct 18, 2006). American English singer, comedienne, and musical parodist. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she aspired to a career as an opera singer. She performed in several opera productions in the UK and sang for the BBC in the 1930s. Initial successes as a musical parodist began in 1940 after Russell moved to Toronto, Canada, with her mother and especially after her famous recital at Town Hall, New York, in 1951.

Through the 1950s Russell performed and recorded extensively. She appeared in opera productions (e.g. New York City Opera, Hansel and Gretel, 1953) and on Broadway (e.g. Anna Russell’s Little Show, 1955). She often styled herself as a mock-music appreciation teacher; for example, she instructed audiences on “How to Write your own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera,” comically explained the plots of famous works like Wagner’s ...

Article

Lisa MacKinney

[Koch, Lydia Anne ]

(b Rochester, NY, June 2, 1959). American singer, songwriter, guitarist, composer, poet, and performance artist. Lydia Lunch arrived in New York City as a teenage runaway in 1976, after a childhood of chaos, abuse, and extreme neglect. Motivated by the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, and the incendiary writing of Lester Bangs in Creem magazine, Lunch formed Teenage Jesus and the Jerks in 1977. The group (which briefly included James Chance) released only a handful of singles and EPs before breaking up in 1979, but Lunch had established herself as an uncompromising purveyor of a brutal, confronting, violently sexual, and bleak artistic vision. She is considered to be a founder of No Wave, an abrasive, untutored form of noise-based punk music that was often politically charged and musically experimental. No wave often involved conventional instruments (guitar, bass, electronic keyboards) used as extreme noise-making devices to create discomforting, visceral sounds—Lunch regularly used electric guitar with a slide in this manner to piercing, abrasive effect. Lunch released her first solo album, ...

Article

Donald A. Henriques

(Alberto )

(b Guanajuato, Mexico, Nov 30, 1911; d Los Angeles, CA, Dec 5, 1953). Mexican film actor and singer. Jorge Negrete was the second of five children born into an upper-class military family. In 1931 he debuted on Radio XETR singing operatic arias and romantic ballads. During this time Negrete also studied voice with José Pierson, a respected vocal coach in Mexico City. In 1936, at the request of Emilio Azcárraga, owner of Radio XEW, Negrete moved to New York City to costar on an NBC radio show entitled The Mexican Caballeros. Although his movie career began in 1937, it was the 1941 film ¡Ay, Jaliscono te rajes! (Hey Jalisco…Don’t Give Up) that made Negrete a star. The singing charro (cowboy) role as played by Negrete displayed the character qualities of what would become the model for the singing charro of the 1940s and 1950s—a brave, God-fearing, macho figure with “right” on his side....

Article

Jonas Westover

[Nelson, Eric Hilliard; Rick]

(b Teaneck, NJ, May 8, 1940; d DeKalb, TX, Dec 31, 1985). American singer, actor, and songwriter. Born into a performing family, Nelson was given a boost towards stardom at a young age, and even his first forays into music were successful. The second son of bandmaster Ozzie and singer Harriet Nelson, he was already an actor on the radio series “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” by 1949. The family’s popularity inspired a film (Here Come the Nelsons, 1952), which led to the popular television series, also titled “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” (1952–66), on which he premiered as a singer. His good looks and clean image helped turn Nelson into a teen idol. In 1957, when he was 16, his first release became a hit: “A Teenager’s Romance” with “I’m Walkin’” on the flip side. Numerous hits followed, including “Stood Up” (...

Article

Craig Jennex

(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Cayce, MS, March 27, 1917; d Memphis, TN, Dec 15, 2001). American singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian, and radio announcer. One of Thomas’s earliest gigs was as part of the dance team Rufus and Johnny with the legendary Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He later forged a distinguished career as a comic (in the duo “Rufus and Bones”) and master of ceremonies at all of the important black theaters in Memphis. In the early 1950s Thomas hosted the daily “Sepia Swing Club” and “Hoot ‘n’ Holler” shows on local black appeal radio station WDIA. Beginning in 1949, Thomas recorded for Star Talent, Meteor, Chess, and, most notably, Memphis’ Sun Records before signing with Satellite (soon-to-be Stax) Records in 1960. His most successful recording pre-Stax was an answer song conceived as a response to Big Mama Thornton’s R&B hit “Hound Dog.” Titled “Bear Cat” and released in 1953, the record was Sun’s first bona-fide hit, peaking at number three on ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b San Francisco, CA, 1951). American playright, actor, visual artist, and musician. Already an accomplished visual artist by 1969, Tong studied theater at the California Institute of Arts, graduating in 1973. His interest in combining theatrical pieces with other media blossomed during the decade, and his performance pieces and films quickly became well known, including such works as “Wild Boys,” “Eliminations,” and “Bound Feet,” which won him an Obie Award in puppetry. In 1977, Tong turned toward music, releasing the single “The Stranger” with flipside “Love/No Hope” (1979), a mix of punk and new wave neo-pop, backed by members of the group Tuxedomoon. He eventually joined the cult band before their second album Desire (1981). Tong’s “In a Manner of Speaking” (1985) became a minor hit for the group, but he left to pursue other projects, including solo work that explored his Chinese American background. “Theoretical China” (...