Wayne County’s first play, World: Birth of a Nation

Wayne County’s first play, World: Birth of a Nation

Because Wayne County loved the Velvet Underground, many of the lines from the first scene of her play World: Birth of a Nation quoted the band’s song titles: “What goes on?” “I’m beginning to see the light.” “Oh! Sweet Jane!” The intimidating presence of Mary Woronov, who wielded a whip while those lines were uttered, pushed this Velvet Underground homage to more absurd heights. The play (staged at the New York Theater Ensemble) takes place in a hospital, where Tony Zanetta played Dr. Louise Pasteur, and its plot revolves around a necrophilic nurse who has sex with a dead dog. It also features a memorable scene in which John Wayne gives birth out of his anus, followed by a slapstick routine in which the plastic baby was dropped on its head and kicked around the hospital floor until various body parts fell off. “Oh no,” a nurse exclaimed, “he’s born dead!” Tony Ingrassia’s prankish casting decisions ratcheted up the madness. The more square the actor, the likelier they would be asked to play a wild part—just to see what these normal, straight thespians would be willing to do in the name of acting. The person who played John Wayne, for example, was just a mainstream actor who responded to the casting call ad with no idea what he was getting himself into. He refused to do full frontal nudity, but still agreed to expose his rear end for the birth scene.

From Chapter 24 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


New York Theater Ensemble
62 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003