The Lower East Side Biography Project
excerpt from 28 minute biography
Steve Zehentner: Producer, Director of Photography
Tom O'Horgan (May 3, 1924 – January 11, 2009) was an American theatre and film director, composer, actor and musician. He is best known for his Broadway work as director of the hit musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. During his career he sought to achieve a form of "total theater" described by the New York Times as “wittily physical,” and which earned him a reputation as the “Busby Berkeley of the acid set.”
O'Horgan said that an element of his artistic gratification is "just getting the vicarious joy of turning people on, making them respond, turning them on to their own sensual powers that are buried under layers of cement. Most of his early career work was in Off-Off-Broadway experimental theatre productions. One of his earliest projects was Love and Vexations at the Caffe Cino in September, 1963, and soon after he became a protege of Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa, E.T.C.
O'Horgan lived in a loft in Manhattan at 840 Broadway (at 13th Street) that was famous for parties and events attended by artistic figures like Norman Mailer and Beverly Sills. The walls were covered with his impressive collection of unusual musical instruments from throughout the world.
The Tom O’Horgan Biography was produced by The Lower East Side Biography Project and was edited and directed by Lisa Melodia in collaboration with Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner.
The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive will help to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.
The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed forty-six 28-minute biographies, videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.
The completed biographies are cablecast and streamed live every Monday at 11 p.m EST on Time Warner Cable Channel 34 and on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Community Channel One.
View the current livestream and cablecast schedule on the project's Facebook page.