Theater for the New City

Theater for the New City

113 Jane St, New York, NY 10014


Theater for the New City was founded in 1971 by Crystal Field, George Bartenieff, Theo Barnes, and Lawrence Kornfeld (who had previously worked with the Judson Poets’ Theatre); by the mid-1970s, it had become a second home for Hibiscus and the Angels of Light.


The Angels of Light at Theater for the New City


The Harris family siblings foraged for costumes in thrift stores, where Jayne Anne found a bright yellow see-through skirt studded with heavy gold sequins that she wore in every Angels of Light show. She augmented it with rhinestones that weighted down the hem so that the skirt would fly open like an umbrella when she spun around. “I remember Hibiscus and Angel Jack made me my first sequined dress for my mermaid costume,” Eloise added. “They found the most beautiful material and made a big fuss over the tail and the crinoline and the wig.” It felt magical. Hibiscus and the girls would run through the streets in full drag to the Angels of Light’s home base, the Theater for the New City. “That’s when Timmy Robbins came into our lives,” Eloise said. “He was lighting the shows, and the shows were beautiful, visually—really enchanting. I mean, you couldn’t take your eyes off the visuals.” Long before he became a Hollywood star, Tim Robbins was a thirteen-year-old with a crush on Eloise, whom he met while doing backstage work at the theater. “If the homophobic Catholic school kids I went to school with ever figured that I was going to the theater at night,” Eloise recalled him telling her, “I would have been in big trouble.” The girls stayed very busy throughout the Angels of Light period, rehearsing for performances while also trying to finish their homework. “It was around the clock, sister,” Mary Lou said. “I don’t remember a day or a weekend or not one moment where I wasn’t in a show or in school.”

From Chapter 26 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore