Telling Tales Out of School

Commemorating P.S. 122's 25-year history of stretching the bounds of contemporary performance


Basil Twist

Tell Tale, Theatre Couture's version of "The Tell-Tale Heart," had this incredible white set and I was on the floor under it popping things out of trap doors—body parts and grisly bits. Very Grand Guignol. I was working late one night, testing a technique, when Mark came in. I was under the floor, pulling strings, making this very bloody meat cleaver climb up the wall and Mark said, "Oh my God!" and I knew this was the way to go.

Karen Finley: The joy of cooking
photo: Dona Ann McAdams
Karen Finley: The joy of cooking

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    Mark Russell, What a Gentleman!

    Danny Hoch

    I saw what was probably the first hip-hop theater piece ever at P.S.122, So! What Happens Now, by GhettOriginal. It said to a generation of artists who didn't just want to remain B-boys or graffiti writers or emcees: You belong on this stage too. That's part of the reason I became the artistic director of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival. Now that I've produced shows, I kid with Mark—I run into him and I'm like, "I'm trying to be you."


    Kate Bornstein

    Mark Russell, what a gentleman! He wasn't in the least bit lascivious. I'm a male-to-female transsexual dyke and the freak factor of queer performance art is extremely high. There were some people running spaces who were kind of leering at the thought. "Well do you take your clothes off? Well, do you still have a penis?" But Mark just said, "Your show sounds great."


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    Tim Miller:Who’s your daddy?
    photo: Dona Ann McAdams

    Jonathan Ames

    You'd often find Mark across the street at this cheap taco place eating a plate of beans. The food just looked so foul. At some point each night he'd run across and have a plate of really gross refried beans. There was something sad yet heroic about the director of this theater eating those greasy beans, nightly sacrificing himself to keep the show going.


    Tim Miller

    Mark was also an artist in the space, a creative person. They'll probably never have that again. Someone who's been there from the beginning. He had done the 14-hour performance vigils. He had gone with some of these nuts (me included) to spend a week on Long Island on the deserted part of the beach, not speaking. One of my favorite images: On day three or four, Mark just crazily and passionately running naked down the beach until he left our field of vision, his butt disappearing from view. It's such a beautiful human image of his creativity, his body, his presence.

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