Reza Abdoh was American theatre’s greatest punk

Though he was only 32 at the time of his passing, the Iranian-American theatre director Reza Abdoh’s (1963–95) mark on the world of theatre was unmistakable. Relentlessly inventive, he pushed his actors—and audiences—to their limits amid ambitious, unusual, disorienting stage sets. Abdoh’s aesthetic language borrowed from fairy tales, BDSM, talk shows, raves, video art, and the history of avant-garde theatre.

The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice, 1990Written and directed by Reza Abdoh, a photograph of the production at Sigma Festival, Bordeaux 1992, photo: Patrick Veyssière

Abdoh was American theatre’s greatest punk.

His ruthless commitment to experimental performance pushed the boundaries of theatre and sobered viewers to the stark reality of queer rights in the 1980s-90s America – an influence in direct line with his queer contemporaries like David Wojnarowicz and Keith Haring. His plays, which were usually set in abandoned warehouses and buildings, took theatre out of the theatre hall itself and meshed it with reality while treating social and political life with pure anarchy.


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