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Perry, Charles, the Haight-Ashbury, A History; Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, New York, 1985, Copyright 1984 by Rolling Stone Press. excerpts Typed by Barb. Golden Nov. 22, 1994. 467w

On College Avenue in south Berkeley there was a bizarre building: a Victorian that had been raised up while two storefronts were built underneath it and then settled down on top of them. On October 1 the Open Theater took over both storefronts; some of the actors already lived upstairs.

The leaders of the group were a Berkeley Drama Department dropout named Ben Jacopetti and his wife, Rain, who before getting the storefronts on College Avenue had used the attic of a huge old house at Dwight and Sacramento for rehearsals. One evening they had been experimenting with commercial filmstrips, cutting them up and running them backward and so on. During a Scott Paper educational film about menstruation, Rain had stood up into the projector beam and the result was an animated diagram of menstrual processes projected on her body. She stripped off her clothes to heighten the effect, and thus began a series of experiments with projections on nude bodies.

At first they did these shows for invitational audiences of sixty or seventy in that attic. The projections were films and slides, sometimes light shows of liquid pigment of the sort that the painter Bill Ham was doing for his neighbors on Pine Street. The first to bring a light show was Ray Anderson, whose brother was living with Signe Toly of the Jefferson Airplane. In time the Open Theater actors bought their own overhead projector and started working up more elaborate shows with props, scrim and multiple soundtracks.

They started calling these shows "Revelations," and toyed with the idea of putting them on in public, but after an audition at Mother's they were told by Tom Donahue that the show was too nude even for topless Broadway. They couldn't even perform "Revelations" at their own theater, because they had injudiciously called the police to ask whether they could be arrested for putting on such a shoe. Instead they returned to their cabaret pieces: a play called "The God Box" written around a high-frequency generator that emitted purple sparks and would make a fluorescent bulb glow if it was brought near; dramatic readings of a nineteenth-century sermon cataloging the hideous effects of masturbation and a 1920s sermon by Aimee Semple MacPherson which exhorted the audience to "come in numbers, come in Deuteronomy."

The Open Theater was a sort of multimedia phenomenon itself. To get into the theater section you first passed through the storefront that was an art gallery (featuring works by Pine Streeters such as Hunter and Kelly, and other artists such as Gary Hirsh, sometime drummer in the house jazz band). p.22-23


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