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Legacy of Alien Comic

Patricia Sullivan

This project began as a retrospective exhibition and book about Tom Murrin, a playwright and legend of the New York Performance Art scene with two stage names: Alien Comic and Jack Bump. With a groundswell of interest, is has blossomed to include support for "The Tom Murrin Full Moon Performance Festival," at LaMama, running April 17th through 27th, 2014.


Tom Murrin was an innovator and leader in the field of Performance Art - a category that falls outside Broadway Theater, Off Broadway Theater and even Off-Off Broadway Theater. It's where ideas about theater come from. This category was created in response to a need by people who are not usually funded by anyone other than themselves, making something out of nothing. Murrin was part of the East Village scene in a particular moment in time when there were dozens of performance spaces in garages, bars and people's apartments and living rooms. If you walked the streets of New York with him, he would point to the sidewalk on many streets and say, "I did a performance there once."   Murrin believed, "Performance is anything done with purpose and style." He pulled objects from the trash of the streets all around the world: India, Hong Kong, Paris, New York and made his shows, often performing on the sidewalk. He was the writer, actor, director, producer, and stage manager. His dialogue came from current events, and sometimes from the articles he found. His first stage name was "Tom Trash." Murrin used juggling and magic tricks along with other skills to get his ideas across.
Murrin also had a deep connection with the moon, through his patron goddess, Luna Macaroona, who appeared to him one moonlit night near Seattle in an apple orchard. She promised him that if he did a tribute to her every full moon, she would take care of him for the rest of his life. He created a ritual of performing outside, in whatever city he was in, in tribute to her, every full moon, keeping his promise.   Murrin's Full Moon Shows at La Mama showcased talents from the performance art community and encouraged the growth of hundreds of other performers throughout the years.   Murrin's travels to India earlier in his life made him a gracious and inspiring leader in his community. While in India in the 1960's, he studied with a popular teacher, Swami Muktananda. Murrin became a beacon, an unassuming and tireless friend to all around him. People were known to have called him "Father Happy." He encouraged young artists to take chances when there was no example to follow. Murrin's alter ego was a villain, "Jack Bump," a character who fancied himself a sexual adventurer, and through him Murrin explored the ego of the villain, acting out scenarios which gave the audience to hiss or boo - or laugh. He wrote plays using Bump as his pseudonym, using fake blood, fake breasts and sex toys as the props, challenging the audience to strip the taboos from these objects.
Murrin was a playwright. His earliest success was "Cockstrong," which toured Europe with a cast from LaMama. Later, his later plays included "Sportf**kers," which lampooned the lives of suburban swingers and "Who'll Carve The Turkey?" about a dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving dinner.   Murrin wrote for PAPER Magazine for over twenty years on the theater scene, from Broadway to the Pyramid Club. He never reviewed, but advocated for performers and spaces that kept the best thinking and writing alive, always breaking barriers and supporting the new work that added to the vocabulary of theater.