The Last Time I Saw Ron: A Tribute to Ron Vawter

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
264 Canal Street #3W New York, NY 10013
April 16th, 2024 7:00 pm ET

RSVP here. Seating is first come, first serve. RSVP does not guarantee entry, but helps us track interest and send event updates and reminders.

Electronic Arts Intermix is pleased to present an evening honoring the legacy of Ron Vawter, a leading presence in downtown theater, film, and video from the mid-1970s until his premature death from AIDS-related causes in 1994. Although devoted to theater, Vawter made work with many of the leading film- and video-makers of the 1980s and 90s throughout his career. Held on the 30th anniversary of his passing, the program will highlight Vawter’s collaborations with artists in video, featuring works by Joan Jonas, Ken Kobland, Leslie Thornton, and The Wooster Group. A discussion with Ken Kobland and Leslie Thornton will follow the program.

Born to a Green Beret father and WAVE mother in the years following World War II, Vawter was given a “gift” of enlistment papers for his 17th birthday. Incredibly, Vawter’s induction into the Green Beret Special Forces would steer him toward avant-garde performance. While stationed as a recruiting officer at Centre Street in New York City, Vawter became involved with Richard Schechner’s downtown theater troupe The Performance Group, from which The Wooster Group emerged in 1975. A founding member of The Wooster Group, Vawter, together with director Elizabeth LeCompte, and performers Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, and Kate Valk, would participate in some of the most indelible pieces in the legendary experimental theater group’s repertoire. Vawter also performed in stagings by Richard Foreman, Mabou Mines, and Jeff Weiss.

Although devoted to theater, Vawter collaborated with many of the leading film and video-makers of the 1980s and ‘90s, including Shu Lea Cheang, Lizzie Borden, and Jonathan Demme. Together, the works in this program convey Vawter’s distinctive and multifaceted career towards the end of his life, a pivotal moment of experimentation in video and performance, non-commercial art making, and AIDS activism—all strands of Vawter’s prodigious legacy. Famously photogenic, Vawter’s iconic visage and versatile charm shine across a range of roles: from a flamboyant hermit in Ken Kobland and The Wooster Group’s Flaubert Dreams of Travel But The Illness of His Mother Prevents It (1986), to a dream interpreter in Joan Jonas’ Volcano Saga (1989), to oppositional cultural figures Roy Cohn and Jack Smith, captured backstage in Ken Kobland’s End Credits (1994) for Jill Godmilow’s film version of Vawter’s legendary dual performance. Thornton’s The Last Time I Saw Ron (1994) creates a moving elegy to the artist’s memory, employing footage taken of Vawter shortly before his death.

This screening accompanies a weekend tribute to Vawter at Anthology Film Archives from April 19-21, featuring the stage and screen versions of Roy Cohn/Jack Smith, and Free Fall (1994), a documentary portrait of Vawter shot during one of his performances of this work. From April 19-26, Le Cinéma Club will stream Bruce and Norman Yonemoto’s Made in Hollywood (1989), in which Vawter stars opposite Patricia Arquette. An online, closed-captioned version of EAI's program will be accessible for a limited time in May.

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have questions about access, please contact in advance of the event.