PS 122 Brings Back Controversial Show for 30th Anniversary

Sara Dover

It might be a miracle that Performance Space 122 has not been shut down yet. But, that isn't stopping the theater from bringing an experimental dance show that almost shuttered the venue in 1986.

“There are many things that have almost got us shut down. That was not the only one,” Director Vallejo Gantner said on the Gawker Media Rooftop for the avant-garde theater’s 30th anniversary. "This institution has been defined by unpredictability, by pushing the envelope, by taking risks."
The experimental 1986 performance entitled "Them" included a duet with a dead animal carcass.
Ishmael Houston-Jonestold, the show's choreographer, told Niteside the “nightmare vision” has symbolism of the AIDS epidemic, and the 1980s audience was a little more than shocked.
“People complained," he said. "People complained to the Board of Health, so I had to negotiate with the Board of Health and we convinced them the audience wasn’t endangered from the dead carcass that I was dancing with.”
For the 21st century version, Houston-Jones teamed up with musician Chris Cochrane and writer Dennis Cooper, re-staging and expanding on the script with a new cast while keeping the theme of relationships between men. He guaranteed the same intensity for the show’s second run, although didn’t confirm a reproduction of the horrific corpse dance.
“It’s very scary for me, I’m blindfolded and sort of rolling around and sticking my head in its body cavity. For one week it was a goat but the goat didn’t last for the entire week so then it was a sheep.”
PS 122 welcomed back the show with open arms. Marketing manager Laura Nicoll said that PS 122 was not upset over the 1986 incident.
“Oh no, no. We love it. No hard feelings at all,” Nicoll said.
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