Harry Koutoukas’s “Camps”

Harry Koutoukas’s “Camps”

“I stepped into the new century my first day in New York when I stepped into Caffe Cino,” playwright Robert Patrick said. “There was no question that I was in the most important place in the world. I know Harry Koutoukas felt like that. Whenever nothing else was booked, Joe Cino would say, ‘Harry, you’ve got something?’ and Harry would give him a title. Then Joe would put the title in the Voice.” Though Koutoukas had been hanging around the Cino for a few years, his career as a playwright began in December 1964 with Only a Countess May Dance When She’s Crazy (an Historical Camp), which he wrote and directed at Caffe Cino. The script has the Countess shouting, “Bring me MY TIERRA—The one with the fewest jewels. . . . Oh there is no one to bring it—NO ONE TO BRING IT! NO ONE SHALL BRING IT OR CAN—I shall bring it unto myself! Even if I have to get it myself.” When the Countess returns with her “tierra,” she is interrupted by the ringing of a telephone, followed by the lowering of the paper cup on a string, which she answers. (When Koutoukas was asked why he couldn’t just use a prop telephone, the playwright snapped, “In a Koutoukas production, it’s paper cups.”) This provocateur, poet, and playwright had a knack for wordplay that spilled over into the titles of his “camps” (Koutoukas’s preferred term for plays), such as Tidy Passions, or Kill, Kaleidoscope, Kill (an Epic Camp) and Awful People Are Coming Over So We Must Be Pretending to Be Hard at Work and Hope They Will Go Away.

From Chapter 9 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Caffe Cino
31 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014