R.I.P. Mel Gordon

Thanks to Travalanche’s top benefactor Bruce Schaffer for relating the sad news that theatre scholar/author Mel Gordon has passed on at age 71.

To clarify: this is not the swing era songwriter Mel Gordon, who died in 2015. And he’s not to be mixed up (as I’ve done in the past) with another awesome theatre scholar/ author Mel Watkins, who writes books about minstrelsy and African American comedy, and whom, ironically, is older than Mel Gordon was. But this Mel Gordon’s works are also much cherished in my house, by both my wife and myself. His books include: Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia Dell’arte (1983); The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (1988); Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Biomechanics: Actor Training in Revolutionary Russia (1996); Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin (2000); Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity (2006), and many others.

I believe these books have been hugely influential, not just in the world of the theatre, but in pop culture. Books like these inspire people, and add to the churn and ferment of the artistic world by putting us in touch with some of the most amazing movements of the past, interpreting them, celebrating them. Entire schools of the past, or aspects of them, have gotten revived to excite and stimulate and enrich entirely new generations of audiences. I hope he knew the impact he had. More on the late Gordon here in his Times obit.