“I do want to leave a legacy. Of whatever, for anyone who’d be interested… One would hate to think that one has passed through this world and left nothing. It’s not even so much leaving something, it’s having done something to better the world. I hope I’ve opened a lot of doors.”
– Ethyl Eichelberger
Ethyl Eichelberger (1945-1990) was a legendary downtown performer whose high octane performances earned him critical acclaim, a loyal audience following, and a mythic reputation. An accomplished musician and classically trained actor, Ethyl wrote, produced, and performed over thirty solo and group performance works that explored the struggles of strong women who survive in history, literature and myth from Klytemnestra to Lucrezia Borgia. Understanding that it is all drag, he also wrote a series of male roles for himself including Leer and Rip Van Winkle. His hilarious plays with rollicking musical numbers featured a rotating cast of downtown luminaries and were staged in venues all over the East Village and toured worldwide. Ethyl acted for The Ridiculous Theatre Company, Trinity Repertory Company, and other regional theater companies, and enjoyed a commercial career on Broadway, in television, and in film. Ethyl was an acrobat, ate fire, rode a unicycle, played the accordion (among other instruments), designed sets, and made wigs and films.
The Ethyl Eichelberger Award
The Ethyl Eichelberger Award is a commissioning award established by Performance Space 122 in 2005. Ethyl premiered and performed much of his work at Performance Space 122, up until his passing in 1990. Some claim the space is gently haunted by his spirit. The Ethyl Eichelberger Award is given to an artist or group that exemplifies Ethyl’s larger-than-life style and generosity of spirit; who embodies Ethyl’s multi-talented artistic virtuosity, bridging worlds and vitalizing those around them. Recipients include Taylor Mac (2005), Julie Atlas Muz (2006), Justin Bond (2007), Jennifer Miller (2008), Vaginal Davis(2009), John Kelly (2010), Peggy Shaw (2011), Mike Iveson (2014), Dane Terry (2016).
Ethyl Eichelberger Committee
Travis Chamberlain, Vaginal Davis, Hattie Hathaway, Andy Horwitz, Mike Iveson, Joe E. Jeffreys, John Kelly, Taylor Mac, Salley May, Jennifer Miller, Miss Joan Marie Moossy, Julie Atlas Muz, Lucy Sexton, Peggy Shaw, and Justin Vivian Bond.