Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Malpede, March 29, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - His family / A childhood surrounded by art and politics

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Partial Transcript: Um, today is March 29th, 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede talks about his background in terms of where he lived when he was young, as well as his parents' affiliation with art and politics. He discusses his mother's various radio shows, but "Something for the Girls" in particular because of an interview she conducted with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Keywords: "RFK in EKY"; "Something for the Girls"; Appalshop, Inc.; Catholics; Certified Public Accountant (CPA); Community theater; Democrats; Doris Malpede; Echo Park United Methodist Church; Eleanor Roosevelt; Italian; Jewish; Joe Malpede; Karen Malpede; Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD); Progressive; Radio shows; Republicans; Sheppard Air Force Base; World War II

Subjects: Art; Chicago (Ill.); Childhood; Families.; Politics and government; Wichita Falls (Tex.)

00:07:35 - His time at the University of Wisconsin

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Partial Transcript: Well, you can see there's two things I'm really interested in and it--should--it's obvious.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses his educational background and the kinds of political activities that he was involved in. He talks about volunteering for the Bread & Puppet Theatre, as well as why he credits Richard Nixon with the development of his artistic career.

Keywords: Anti-war; Bread & Puppet Theatre; Cambodia; Columbia University; Confidence; Karen Malpede; Lake Forest College; New York; Performance skills; Peter Schumann; Philosophy; Richard Nixon; Sit-ins; Spiritual; University of Iowa; University of Wisconsin; Vietnamese; Volunteering

Subjects: Art; Education; Education, Higher; Political activists.; Politics and government; Theater.

00:15:00 - The influence of the Bread & Puppet Theatre

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Partial Transcript: Here, we enter into this sort of black--many--one of many black holes of my ignorance, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses how the Bread & Puppet Theatre helped shape his career as a performer. He talks about some of the ventures he went on after working with the Bread & Puppet Theatre, such as working with the Central Notion Company and performing "Dead Dog & Lonely Horse", as well as the concept of past and present that was present in the work he did during this period.

Keywords: "Condition of the Worker"; "Dead Dog & Lonely Horse"; "Olympic Update"; "RFK in EKY"; Architects; Battery Park; Bill Gourd; Bread & Puppet Theatre; Carpentry; Central Notion Company; Characters; Description; Grand Union; Improvisation; Maps; Monologues; Nature; Past; Performing; Peter Schumann; Physical labor; Present; Simone Weil; Students; Union Square

Subjects: Art; Careers; Performances; Performers; Politics and government; Theater.

00:26:16 - "Olympic Update" / Fighting to help the homeless

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Partial Transcript: You were talking about, uh, "Olympic Update" and that's great because that's actually where, um, in viewing the--this retrospective show, it seemed to be your, your entry point for, for working in L.A.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses how he got started working on "Olympic Update" and how that led him to move to Los Angeles, California. He talks about noticing the rise of homelessness in New York and his desire to explore the reasoning behind it. Because of his interest in the problem of homelessness, he was led to Los Angeles, California where activists were collecting personal testimonies of the homeless and presenting them to the government in an attempt to better the conditions under which they were living. He talks about working with the Catholic Worker and the Inner City Law Center to promote social change, as well as the role he played in the efforts put forth by those organizations.

Keywords: "Olympic Update"; Blue Mountain Center; California Arts Council; Catholic Worker; Central Park; Creative Time; Declarations; Gary Blasi; Greyhound therapy; Homeless Litigation Team; Homelessness; Hudson River; Inner City Law Center; Lawsuits; Legal Aid Foundation; Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD); Monologues; New York; Olympics; Paralegal; Performance; Performance workshops; Policy; Robert F. Kennedy; Skid Row; Social well-being; Tent city; Testimony; Visitors; Volunteering; Volunteers; Welfare offices; Welfare system

Subjects: Change.; Homelessness.; Lawyers.; Los Angeles (Calif.); Political activists.; Politics and government; Theater.

00:39:54 - Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD)

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little about the, the reception of the idea that you had of, of: let's, let's, let's, you know, move toward art and theater and expression with these people...

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses the support that he had upon suggesting the concept for the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) and how he was following what he thought was right.

Keywords: Concerns; Encouragement; Gary Blasi; Inner City Law Center; Law schools; Lawsuits; Legal Aid Foundation; Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD); Mental hospitals; Skid Row; Workshops

Subjects: Art; Homeless persons.; Homelessness.; Theater.

00:43:53 - The production of "RFK in EKY"

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Partial Transcript: You're talking, um, generally about LAPD and, and there are so many projects, but in the retrospective, I was seeing that there was "LAPD Inspects America"...

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses the reasoning behind the initial "RFK in EKY" idea and how it got off the ground in terms of funding and content. He talks about approaching Peter Edelman, Robert F. Kennedy's aide at the time of his assassination, to talk to him about the trip Kennedy took to Eastern Kentucky. He also links "Agents & Assets", a production about the War on Drugs, and Kennedy together and talks about using that to enhance the content of "RFK in EKY".

Keywords: "Agents & Assets"; "LAPD Inspects America"; "RFK in EKY"; Alternate ROOTS; American Festivals Project; Caron Atlas; Dudley Cocke; Hearings; Herald Fletcher; Impressions; Inspiration; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD); Maxine Waters; Michael Hunt; Opportunity; Peter Edelman; Poverty; Reality; Roadside Theater; Support; Talent shows; War on Drugs

Subjects: Appalachia; Appalshop, Inc.; Artists; Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.; Theater.

00:58:10 - The impact of "RFK in EKY"

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Partial Transcript: I'm, I'm really curious about some of the conceptual pieces and how it, it was experienced by you and others in the historical moment of 2004.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses how "RFK in EKY" affected people in Appalachia and how relevant it was to the social issues that were prevalent in 2004. He talks about the discussions that were generated from the production and the transformations that took place in people involved in it and in the people watching it.

Keywords: "Agents & Assets"; "RFK in EKY"; "Red Beard, Red Beard"; Alice Lloyd College; Appalachian Volunteers; Bill Gorman; Community action; Democrats; Hearing; Lawrence Baldridge; Louie Nunn; Maynard Hogg; Nell Fields; Past; Pippa Passes (Ky.); Present; Republicans; Saddam Hussein; Social issues; Speeches; Theater Magazine; Transformation; Vietnam War; War on Poverty

Subjects: Appalachia; Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalshop, Inc.; Art; Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.; Political activists.; Theater.

01:12:33 - Collaborating with Appalshop, Inc.

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Partial Transcript: Um, you know, I, I'm curious now to kind of--well, just as a check on time...

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses what it was like collaborating with Appalshop, Inc. in the production of "RFK in EKY".

Keywords: "RFK in EKY"; Alice Lloyd College; Carl Perkins; Expertise; Frankie Taylor; Listening; Outsiders; Roadside Theater; Robert F. Kennedy; Social justice; Tensions

Subjects: Appalachia; Appalshop, Inc.; Theater.

01:20:57 - "Utopia / Dystopia" / His continued relationship with Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: As a final--as a--as a way of kind of resolving this, this conversation, I mean there's, there's a lot that, that you've done since 2004.

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses the work he went on to do in Los Angeles, California that resembled "RFK in EKY", as well as how his relationship with Kentucky has continued throughout the years.

**There is a loud siren in this segment.**

Keywords: "220 Glimpses of Utopia"; "Agents & Assets"; "Oxy Girl"; "RFK in EKY"; "Utopia / Dystopia"; City hall; Contentious; Conversation; Conversations; Dee Davis; Disney Hall; Downtown; Headstart program; Herald Fletcher; Kentucky; Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD); Memorabilia events; Skid Row; War on Poverty; “Orphan Girl”

Subjects: Appalachia; Appalshop, Inc.; Communities.; Drug abuse; Los Angeles (Calif.); Performances; Theater.

01:31:36 - His opinion of Appalshop, Inc.

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, a, a, a final, I guess, place to stop...

Segment Synopsis: Malpede discusses his opinion of Appalshop, Inc. after working with them for many years. He talks about the people he worked with and what working with them meant to him as a performer and a person.

Keywords: "RFK in EKY"; Conversations; Dave Reynolds; Dee Davis; Energy; Greg Howard; Kentucky; Mimi Pickering; Trajectory; Wisdom

Subjects: Appalachia; Appalshop, Inc.; Politics and government; Theater.