Caffe Cino’s first theatrical offerings were plays from established playwrights such as Tennessee Williams and Jean Giraudoux. The first original play Cino produced is thought to be James Howard’s Flyspray (summer of 1960). Cino became so excited by the audience’s and his own response to the plays that he quickly established a weekly schedule for theatrical performances. He would introduce the acts with the phrase, "It's magic time!"
The first performances at Caffe Cino were done on the café floor. Eventually, Cino constructed a makeshift 8’ x 8’ stage from milk cartons and carpet remnants which was used for some productions. The limited space dictated a need for small casts and for minimal sets, usually built from scraps Cino found in the streets. Cino relied heavily on lighting designer John P. Dodd, who lit the stage using electricity stolen from the city grid by Joe Cino’s lover, electrician Jon Torrey. The space made for intimacy between the performers and audience, with little room for typical fourth-wall illusionary theatre. Cino decorated the café with fairy lights, mobiles, glitter dust, and Chinese lanterns, and he covered the walls with memorabilia and personal effects.
Robert Patrick Collection. Jon Torrey and Joe Cino, 1962
Joe Cino was an Italian-American theatrical producer and café-owner. The beginning of the Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement is generally credited to have begun at Cino’s Caffe Cino. John P. Dodd lit the stage using electricity stolen from the city grid by Joe Cino’s lover, electrician Jon Torrey. In 1967, Jon Torrey was electrocuted and died. Though his death was ruled accidental, skeptical insiders claimed that he committed suicide. Less than 2 months later Cino committed suicide as well.
Joe Cino, the son of first generation Sicilian-Americans, came from a working-class family in Buffalo. He moved to New York City at the age of sixteen, studying performing arts for two years in hopes of becoming a dancer. Though he made a living dancing throughout much of the 1950s, his continual struggles with weight curtailed his dance career.
Cino eventually became addicted to amphetamines as he struggled to keep up the pace that Caffé Cino demanded from him. On January 5, 1967, Jon Torrey was electrocuted and died in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Though his death was ruled accidental, skeptical insiders claimed that he committed suicide. The event sent Cino into a depressive spiral. He began socializing with members from Andy Warhol’s Factory (attracted by the success of "Dames"), including the notorious Pope Ondine (a.k.a. Bob Olivio), with whom Cino did a great deal of drugs. Caffe Cino itself was beginning to suffer. The Caffe Cino, as a commercial enterprise, was ineligible for the government grants which had allowed other experimental theatres to prosper, and Joe refused to charge an admission or even a minimum.
On March 30, 1967, Cino hacked his arms and stomach with a kitchen knife. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors announced that he would live. However, on April 2, Jon Torrey’s birthday, Joe Cino died. Though friends tried to keep Caffe Cino open, it closed in 1968, finally falling victim to cabaret laws now being strictly enforced by the young, ambitious councilman, Ed Koch.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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