Al Carmines

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Reverend Alvin Allison "Al" Carmines, Jr. (July 25, 1936 – August 9, 2005) was a key figure in the expansion of Off-Off-Broadway theatre in the 1960s.

Carmines was born in Hampton, Virginia. Although his musical talent appeared early, he decided to enter the ministry, attending Swarthmore College, majoring in English and philosophy, and then Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, earning a bachelor of divinity in 1961 and a master of sacred theology in 1963.

Carmines was hired by Howard Moody as an assistant minister at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park, New York, to found a theater in the sanctuary of the Greenwich Village church in conjunction with playwright Robert Nichols. He began composing in 1962 and acted as well. His Bible study group grew into the Rauschenbusch Memorial United Church of Christ, with Carmines as pastor.

Carmines taught at Union Theological Seminary and received the Vernon Rice Award for his performance and the Drama Desk Award for Lyrics and Music and was awarded the Obie award for Life Time Achievements.

Carmines is perhaps best remembered in the church for the hymn "Many Gifts, One Spirit" #114 in the United Methodist Hymnal. He was commissioned by the United Methodist Women to write this hymn for their General Assembly in 1974.

Carmines' musicals reflected his eclectic interests, including:

Carmines' Judson Poets' Theater, with other burgeoning theatres Café Cino, La MaMa E.T.C. and Theatre Genesis were experimental and vibrant challenges to the commercialization and conformity of Off Broadway and Broadway houses.

His 1973 musical The Faggot was a success d'estime which transferred from the Judson Memorial Church to the Truck and Warehouse Theatre and ran for 203 performances.

In 1977, he had a cerebral aneurysm that required months of therapy. He underwent surgery a second time in 1985, which only then cured his crippling headaches. He died in St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, survived by his partner Paul Rounsaville.

Carmines found as much spiritual meaning in the theater as the church: "If you want to know how to live, go to church. If you want to know how your life is in its deepest roots, go to the theater."

Theatre credits[edit]

  • What Happened (1963) - composer; a setting for the works of Gertrude Stein
  • Home Movies/Softly Consider the Nearness (1964) - composer, actor
  • Patter for a Soft Shoe Dance (1964) - composer
  • Sing Ho for a Bear (1966) - composer, actor (as Winnie the Pooh)
  • Gorilla Queen (1967) - composer, lyricist
  • San Francisco's Burning (1967) - composer
  • Song of Songs - composer; a cantata based on the Bible
  • The Sayings of Mao Tse-tung (1968) - composer; another cantata
  • In Circles (1968) - composer, actor
  • Peace (1969) - composer; an adaptation from Aristophanes
  • Christmas Rappings (from 1969) - lyrics, music, actor, director; annual Xmas show held at Judson Memorial Church, and eventually taped for a television special
  • Promenade (1969) - composer, musical director
  • The Urban Crisis (1969) - composer, lyricist; a "secular oratorio"
  • About Time (1970) - composer; another oratorio
  • W.C. (1971) - composer, lyricist; a musical based on the life of W. C. Fields, which starred Mickey Rooney and Bernadette Peters but closed out-of-town
  • The Journey of Snow White (1971) - composer, lyricist
  • The Duel (1972); composer, lyricist; an opera based on the lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
  • Joan (1972) - librettist, composer, lyricist, actor, director
  • A Look at the Fifties (1972) - composer, lyricist;
  • Wanted (1972) - composer;
  • "The Making of Americans" (1972 - composer and performer, text by Gertrude Stein adapted by Leon Katz, Directed by Lawrence Kornfeld
  • The Faggot (1973) - composer, lyricist, director, actor
  • Listen to me (1974) - composer; another Gertrude Stein adaptation
  • "A Manoir" (1977) composer, text by Gertrude Stein, directed by Lawrence Kornfeld
  • "Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights" (1979) composer, text by Gertrude Stein, directed by Lawrence Kornfeld, starring Jeff Weiss
  • T.S. Eliot: Midwinter Vigil(ante) (1981) - composer, lyricist, director; last show at Judson Church
  • Romance Language (1984) - actor (as Walt Whitman)
  • The Making of Americans (1985) - composer & lyricist, libretto by Leon Katz
  • The Comedy of Errors (1992) - actor (as Duke/Balthazar)
  • Maslova (1992) - composer, lyricist
  • Martyrs and Lullabies (1996) - an opera featuring Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gertrude Stein, and Bessie Smith.

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1964 Obie Award for Best Music - for Home Movies/Softly Consider the Nearness
  • 1968 Drama Desk Award (Vernon Rice-Drama Desk Award) - the music from In Circles
  • 1968 Obie Award for Best Musical - for In Circles
  • 1969 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music - for Peace
  • 1974 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics - for The Faggot
  • 1974 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music - for The Faggot
  • 2003 Robert Chesley Award for gay and lesbian Playwriting