Everett Quinton, 'Ridiculous Theatrical Company' Mainstay, Dies at 71

Wednesday January 25, 2023

Everett Quinton
Everett Quinton  (Source:IMDb)

Everett Quinton, one of the mainstays of the New York queer theater scene since the 1970s, has died at the age of 71, according to Theatermania. Actor, director, designer, and playwright, Quinton was integral to the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, which was founded by his professional and personal partner Charles Ludlam.

"A cornerstone of off-off-Broadway, the Ridiculous placed a high value on irreverence, comedy, and showmanship, with Ludlam proclaiming, 'You are a living mockery of your own ideals. If not, you have set your ideals too low.' Often appearing in drag, Ludlam wrote, directed, and starred in nearly 30 plays during his two decades of leadership, eventually moving the company into a permanent venue at One Sheridan Square," Theatermania said.

He was most recently seen in the Billy Eichner rom-com "Bros."

Charles Ludlam and Everett Quinton in "The Mystery of Irma Vep"
Charles Ludlam and Everett Quinton in "The Mystery of Irma Vep"  

According to David Kaufman in his biography, "Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam," Ludlam first met Quinton while cruising on Christopher Street in early 1975. They spent the night together, but lost touch after that. "I lost his phone number," Quinton confessed to Kaufman. "I ran into him the following August, and the first thing he said to me was, 'So you're not a dream! You do exist!' And that's when we became lovers."

Quinton joined the company as a wig and wardrobe manager, which led to him joining the company as an actor. The company had their biggest hit when Ludlam and Quinton starred in the two-hander "The Mystery of Irma Vep," a send-up of a Gothic thriller that featured the actors cross-dressing to play its numerous characters. The original 1984 off-Broadway production featured the actors in 35 costume changes. It opened in September 1984 and closed in April 1986.

"Between them, in performance, Mr. Ludlam and Mr. Quinton turn this self-styled 'penny dreadful' into a double tour de force," wrote Mel Gussow in reviewing the play in the New York Times.

"Blink your eyes, and the Boy Scoutish bravado of Mr. Quinton's master of the manse has been replaced by his Agnes Moorehead maidservant hiding her jealousy - and biding her time - behind a mask of self-sacrifice. The actor demonstrates here, as he has in other Ridiculous jaunts, that he has a genuine comic talent for pretending to be female," Gussow continued.

Quinton stayed with the Ridiculous after Ludlam died of AIDS in 1987, taking over as artistic director. But as the epidemic continued to decimate the New York gay community and rising costs, companies like the Ridiculous found it difficult to survive. He resigned as artistic director in 1997 without a replacement.

Theatermania added: "Quinton continued to work in the theater, directing and starring in a commercial revival of 'Irma Vep' opposite Stephen DeRosa in 1998, which ran for 335 performances. He frequently appeared at La MaMa in productions like 'Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws' (with Mink Stole) and 'The Etiquette of Death' (with Taylor Mac). He also found work on screens big and small, most recently appearing as "Melvin Funk" in the Billy Eichner rom-com 'Bros.'"

He also remained a champion of Ludlam's work, directing revivals of "Irma Vep," "The Artificial Jungle," "Conquest of the Universe," and "Galas" over the past 10 years.

Speaking to Theatermania in a 2014 interview, Quinton struck a fiery tone: "The Ridiculous is theater of rage. It's at odds with the world. It comes out fighting against a system that is stultifying."