Edgar Oliver

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Edgar Oliver (born October 31, 1956[1]) is an American stage and film actor, poet, performance artist and playwright. He is considered a "legend" of the lower Manhattan theater scene and is known for his distinctive accent and diction.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Edgar Oliver was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Edgar Joseph Oliver Jr. and Mary Louise Gibson. His father died (of a morphine overdose) in Dallas, Texas before he was born. He and his older sister Helen (a painter[2][5]) were raised by their mother Louise, residing on 36th Street.[5] Louise died when he was 27 years old.[6]

Both Oliver siblings attended the 37th Street School and the Cathedral School as elementary students. Later, Edgar studied at Benedictine Military School while Helen was at St. Vincent's Academy for girls. Both were valedictorians of their classes-- '74 and '73-- at their respective Catholic schools.[5] He attended George Washington University.[7]

At a live The Moth event, recorded on January 25, 2006, Oliver recalled how he and his sister Helen escaped their eccentric mother by running away to Paris using their trust money from their deceased father.[7] Their mother chased them in her car when they tried leaving. They ran away the first summer after they started college at George Washington University.[7]


Oliver first started performing in New York City at the Pyramid Club in the mid-1980s.[8] Notable New York City productions include his roles in Edward II with Cliplight Theater and numerous productions at the Axis Theatre Company including A Glance at New York (which played at the Edinburgh Festival) and his autobiographical one-man show East 10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House, which enjoyed an extended run with Axis.

His film credits include the Independent Spirit Award-winning The Jimmy Show and the multiaward-winning Henry May Long. He appeared in the Jared Hess film Gentlemen Broncos[2] and had the leading role as a Futurist performance artist[9] in the comedy feature That's Beautiful Frank.[10] He is also a frequent storyteller for The Moth radio program.[5]

Oliver has written at least a dozen plays, "including The Poetry Killers, The Ghost of Brooklyn, When She Had Blood Lust, The Master of Monstrosity, I Am A Coffin, My Green Hades and Chop Off Your Ear".[11] These has often been produced at La MaMa ETC,[2] most notably the 2000 production of his play The Drowning Pages starred Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame).[11]

Oliver has published two poetry collections: A Portrait of New York by a Wanderer There, Summer, and the novel The Man Who Loved Plants. His style has been characterized as "characterized as 19th Century romantic".[11]

Oliver has also gained cult fame appearing on the Science Channel series Oddities and was notable for his line "Is that a straitjacket?",[12] which was featured in the show's promos. He hosts the spin-off show Odd Folks Home.

On November 26, 2011, Third Man Records released a tricolor 45 RPM single of his "In The Park". Only 150 copies were produced. Fifty were sold at Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee, and fifty at Obscura in New York. Fifty copies were mailed at random out to those who ordered the unlimited black vinyl version.[citation needed]

His show East 10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House won a Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2009, competing against 750 shows.[5][13]

Personal life[edit]

Oliver has resided on the East Village[2] of New York City since 1977.[1] His dwelling was an apartment on the top floor of a building with no other occupants [5][14] but has since relocated.[15]

Neither he nor his sister Helen know how to drive a car.[6]

On April 30, 2011, at another The Moth event, he related further adventures of his, when he, Helen, and a friend Jason traveled to Tangier, Morocco, to (eventually) meet author Paul Bowles.[16]


Critical studies and reviews[edit]

  • Als, Hilton (June 2, 2014). "Cruising : Edgar Oliver's park stories". The Critics. The Theatre. The New Yorker. Vol. 90, no. 15. pp. 80–81. Retrieved April 22, 2015.


  1. ^ a b Brantley, Ben (February 16, 2009). "So Inviting, That Dark at the Top of the Stairs". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e Murrin, Tom (November 11, 2008). "Stage Notes: East 10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House". Papermag.com. Paper Publishing Company. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  3. ^ "East 10th Street - Self Portrait with Empty House". TheaterMania.com. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Jackson, Sharyn (February 4, 2009). "Positively 10th Street: Edgar Oliver's East Village". The Village Voice.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Oliver, Edgar (2011). "The Moth's Catherine Burns interviews Edgar Oliver". SoundCloud.com (Interview). Interviewed by Catherine Burns. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Savannah Revisted [sic]. The Moth. September 6, 2012. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2016 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ a b c Oliver, Edgar (January 25, 2006). "The Apron Strings of Savannah". The Moth.
  8. ^ BWW News Desk (January 26, 2009). "New Edgar Oliver Play Opens For A Limited Encore Run". BroadwayWorld.com. Wisdom Digital Media. Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  9. ^ "About the Film". thatsbeautifulfrank.wordpress.com.
  10. ^ "Edgar Oliver is Francis Eugene Carroll". thatsbeautifulfrank.wordpress.com.
  11. ^ a b c Ehren, Christine (May 6, 2000). "Deborah Harry Reads Oliver's Gloomy Drowning Pages May 6–14 At La MaMa". Playbill. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  12. ^ Oddities - Strait Jacket Edgar New Series*. Discovery. Retrieved September 14, 2016 – via YouTube.[dead link]
  13. ^ Paddock, Terri (August 14, 2009). "John Clancy, Dennis Kelly, Edgar Oliver et al. Win Edinburgh Fringe First Awards". TheaterMania.com. London. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  14. ^ Leduff, Charlie (January 4, 1998). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: LOWER EAST SIDE; A Poe Clings to an S.R.O". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  15. ^ Ben Brantley (November 1, 2016). "Review: 'Attorney Street,' a Gothic Elegy for a Fleeing Here and Now". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Oliver, Edgar (April 30, 2011). "Courting Paul Bowles in Tangier". The Moth.

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