By Ann Ungar
A fully staged, costumed and scenically designed reading of S.C.U.M. The Valerie Solanas Story, a play by the very talented Kat Georges, opened and closed as a happening at Dixon Place, a one-night stand, yes, but one which deserves actors off-book and able to explore their characters a bit more fully. Nonetheless, this able ensemble, given the task of often delivering monologues on top of each other, achieves a mosaic of people who are entirely self-absorbed constellations, denizens of Andy Warhol’s Factory in late December 1968.
The S.C.U.M. Manifesto is a brilliant, funny, but horribly twisted screed which seeks to dissect men. S.C.U.M. indeed stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men, and it was written by Valerie Solanas who, as a writer, gave one of her scripts to Andy Warhol earlier that year. He managed to lose it or forget about it, and she had the poor taste to react badly to this gesture of distain, getting hold of a gun and shooting him. For this gesture of psychological anguish, she was jailed in a mental hospital, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but set free (legal apparatus unknown). As Ms. Georges depicts this in an act of ironic theatrical inspiration, Valerie heads to Warhol’s Factory, his famous studio, to attend a party in her honor. Obviously, in reality Warhol was terrified of her and she would never have been allowed near his life.
Peopled with Valerie’s mother Dorothy (Lois Kagan Mingus), Vivian, a character based on Edie Sedgwick and Viva (Jane LeCroy), Golem, a screenwriter/poet based on Gerard Malanga (Peter Collier), and Bernard, an art dealer based on Richard Bellamy (Peter Carlaftes), the party proceeds. There’s salami and drugs, a video of street demonstrations in the 1960s, beauty contests, and the ever-present image of Marilyn Monroe as Warhol depicted her, an iconic movie star exploited for her sexuality by the patriarchy of Hollywood and a suicide for it.
Valerie Solanas (Leah Bacher), who has been accosting the audience as they entered the theater and commenting on the play’s action from the balcony, eventually joins the main party room and takes focus, quoting her manifesto and trying to act on its more ugly suggestions, like pulling a knife on Golem and threatening his genitals. She’s eventually stopped by other characters, but the point is made: this is a play for our age, a time of social unrest: think #MeToo and the whole horrible gun debate.
Nicely directed by Peter Carlaftes (who also published the book in which this play appears, Three Somebodies: Plays About Notorious Dissidents by Kat Georges – Three Rooms Press), S.C.U.M. should receive more pop-up productions because it’s fun and gives us a picture of the art scene in the 1960s. These are folks who’re interesting to watch from a seat in a theater; you probably wouldn’t want them at your dinner table.
S.C.U.M. THE VALERIE SOLANAS STORY – written by Kat Georges and directed by Peter Carlaftes
WITH: Lois Kagan Mingus (Dorothy), Jane LeCroy (Vivian), Peter Collier (Golem), Peter Carlaftes (Bernard), Leah Bacher (Valerie Solanas), and Kat Georges on flute, and some willing audience members as well as a saxophonist who played and danced to fill out the party
Presented by Three Rooms Press at Dixon Place, New York City on March 25, 2018 only.
This play was originally presented at the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theater in San Francisco sometime in the 1990s when Peter and Kat ran that small theater, producing and presenting more than twenty-five plays.