1943 - 1987

“Year in and year out, under the guise of the Ridiculous, we attempt the Sublime.”

– Charles Ludlam

Charles Ludlam was born in Northport, Long Island on April 12, 1943. He had officially come out by the time he received a degree in dramatic literature from Hofstra University in 1964. After graduation he joined the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, but after a falling out formed his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. Ludlam’s satirical avant-garde company soon found an appreciative audience with early productions like Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide, and The Enchanted Pig. For the next two decades he wrote, directed, and performed (in female as well as male roles) in almost all of the over two dozen productions, and often co-starring his life partner, Everett Quinton. His plays imitated a variety of sources from gothic novels to film noir, and from pulp fiction to opera. His productions were often characterized by cross-dressing, double-entendre, melodramatics, and biting humor. Ludlam was the recipient of six Off-Broadway (Obie) Awards as well as a Drama Desk award, and the Rosamund Gilder Award. Some of his most popular works included The Artificial Jungle, Camille, Galas, Reverse Psychology, and Der Ring Gott Farblonjet. Ludlam’s most popular play was the tour de force The Mystery of Irma Vep, in which two actors play seven roles in a send-up of gothic horror novels. In 1991, Irma Vep was the most produced play in the US; and in 2003, it became the longest-running play ever produced in Brazil. Ludlam was also highly regarded as an instructor, teaching or staging productions at New York University, Yale, and Carnegie-Mellon. Ludlam was diagnosed with AIDS in March 1987 and died of PCP pneumonia at age 44 on May 28, 1987. At the time of his death, the New York Times called him "one of the most prolific and flamboyant artists in the theatre of the avant-garde." In his honor, the street in front of his theatre in Sheridan Square was renamed Charles Ludlam Lane. In 2009 he was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980)

Field(s) of Contribution

Art, Music, Literature & Theater





Commemorations & Honors

Six Time Obie Award Winner

Drama Desk Award Winner

Block in Front of His Theater Renamed Charles Ludlam Lane

Ridiculous Theatrical Company Founder (1967)

Joseph Maharam Foundation Awards for Scenic, Costume, and Lighting Design Award for The Mystery of Irma Vep (1985)

Rosamund Gilder Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Theater (1986)

Sustained Excellence Obie Award Winner (1987)

Posthumous American Theater Hall of Fame Inductee (2009)


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Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell