The Fourth Wall (1976-1991)

In 1979, I joined The Fourth Wall, a Manhattan-based political theater collective. The group performed regularly from 1978 until 1991 at 79 East 4th Street (then known as the Truck and Warehouse Theater, now the home of the New York Theater Workshop). Originally 'The Fourth Wall Repertory Company,' later 'The Fourth Wall Political Theater,' it became notorious for its radical positions; from today's perspective, some were prescient and some were lunatic, though reasonable people sometimes still disagree about which was which.

In any case, nothing worthwhile has yet been written about the Fourth Wall.

In 1978, the company made an album for a children's musical, The King of the Entire World. You can download tracks from that album here.

In 1980, we contributed songs to a documentary We Are the Guinea Pigs, about the disaster at Three Mile Island. You can download those songs here.

Latest additions.
Songs from We Are the Guinea Pigs.
The Fourth Wall presented seven children's shows. (Note: Creator attributions are provisional; corrections welcome.)
  • Alice in Wonderland (Provincetown Playhouse, 1977)
  • The King of the Entire World (Truck and Warehouse Theater, opened 1978) (Book, Lyrics, and Music: Daniel Pisello)
  • Captain Boogie and the Kids from Mars (1979). (Book: Daniel Pisello, Joan Harvey. Lyrics and Music: Daniel Pisello, John Amato)
  • Toto and the Wizard of Wall Street (1983) (Book: Ken Krauss, Joan Harvey. Lyrics: Ken Krauss, Joan Harvey, John Amato. Music: John Amato)
  • The Beat is With You (1986) (Book and Lyrics: Elliot Kreloff, Zoë Graves. Music: Joe Hudson)
  • Wallaby's Rainbow Circus (1989) (Book and Lyrics: Zoë Graves, Janet Siskind. Music: Sean Mahony)
  • Lions, Leopards, and Litterbugs (1991) (Book and Lyrics: Zoë Graves, Janet Siskind. Music: Sean Mahony, Dee Green, John Amato)
Except for The King of the Entire World, there are no cast recordings and few good performance photos.

In 1990, we made our only rock album, Counterforce. These are the songs from that album, mostly passable examples of late-80s agit-pop, presented for the curious. 



Homeless Madness (Barbara Bury) mp3 wma
It Sure Ain't Justice (Eric Grunin) mp3 wma
Racism (Meagan Klein, Joe Hudson) mp3 wma
If They Come for Me in the Morning (Grunin) mp3 wma
Mother Goose Step (Вrewster Рaley, Greg Fletcher) mp3 wma
March! (Grunin) mp3 wma
We Got One (John Amato) mp3 wma
Land of the Free (Klein, Hudson) mp3 wma
How the Poor Get Dead (Deedee Agee, Hudson) mp3 wma
Live As One (Klein, Hudson) mp3 wma
Stop (Dan Kavulish, Hudson)
Richie Havens, guest vocal
mp3 wma

Main personnel: John Amato, Mike Fogarty, guitars; Eric Grunin, bass; Joe Hudson, drums and synthesizers. Sung by the writers except as noted.

Other recordings from various sources.

mp3 I'd Rather (Eric Grunin)
Studio version, 2007.
mp3 Magical Wizards (John Amato)
From Toto and the Wizard of Wall Street
Studio version, 1984. Eric Grunin, Elliott Randall.
mp3 What They Want There, We Need Here (Eric Grunin)
Live performance from 10/10/1987. Dee Green, keyboard; Joan Franklin, bass; Joe Hudson, drums; Lauren Draper, trumpet
mp3 Twisted (Judy Tatti, Trudy Cavallo)
Studio version, 1988.

Notes on the context.

The degree to which the topics in these songs are still current is both impressive and slightly depressing, but the specific references might need clarification:

'Howard Beach and Bensonhurst' and 'Blacks against Koreans':
Beginning with the murder of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach in December 1986, a series of incidents occurred in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens which have suddenly made neighbourhood names stand as code words for racial hatred, modern-day lynchings, and the failures of blacks and whites to live together in peace. The Howard Beach incident, where Griffith was killed, was followed in 1989 by the killing of another African-American, Yusuf Hawkins, in Bensonhurst, fire bombings in Canarsie, a long boycott of a Korean grocer in Flatbush by African-Americans, as well as riots and the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights in 1991.

(from "Ethnic and racial groups in the USA: Conflict and cooperation," in Ethnicity and power in the contemporary world, UN University Press, 1996.)

The references to Russia and the Soviet Union are from the era of Perestroika ('restructuring', 1985-1991), a period of optimism before the gangsters took over:
I stress once again: perestroika is not some kind of illumination or revelation. To restructure our life means to understand the objective necessity for renovation and acceleration. And that necessity emerged in the heart of our society. The essence of perestroika lies in the fact that it unites socialism with democracy and revives the Leninist concept of socialist construction both in theory and in practice. Such is the essence of perestroika, which accounts for its genuine revolutionary spirit and it's all-embracing scope.

(Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika, New York: Harper Collins, 1987)

The "Reagan Doctrine" was used to characterize the Reagan administration’s (1981-1988) policy of supporting anti-Communist insurgents wherever they might be...the Reagan administration focused much of its energy on supporting proxy armies to curtail Soviet influence. Among the more prominent examples of the Reagan Doctrine’s application, in Nicaragua, the United States sponsored the contra movement in an effort to force the leftist Sandinista government from power. And in Afghanistan, the United States provided material support to Afghan rebels—known as the mujahadeen—helping them end Soviet occupation of their country.

(from the US Deptartment of State website. The mujahadeen regime was later known as the Taliban.)
'Drugs put guns in Contra hands':
In its series titled Dark Alliance, the Mercury News detailed a scheme that allegedly funneled tons of cocaine to black Los Angeles neighborhoods and returned millions in drug profits to a CIA-funded guerrilla army in Nicaragua.

"It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting "gangstas" of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles," the paper said.

(Reuters, 18 Sep 1996)

Nuclear weapons in New York harbor:
In 1982, the Navy proposed a new 'homeport' at Stapleton, on Staten Island. Some of the ships to be berthed would have carried nuclear-armed cruise missiles. There's not much about this online, though there's plenty offline.

When Navy Secretary John Lehman hatched the strategic homeporting idea, he did not do so because there were homeless ships. Even his pipe dream of a 600-ship Navy could have been comfortably berthed at the existing Navy installations. Secretary Lehman designed homeporting as a way to build a broader base of political support for the Navy.

(, US Military Facilities)

As for Ronald Reagan:
My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

(Ronald Reagan, 8/11/1984, testing the mike before a radio broadcast)

Comments are welcome:

In memoriam

Caveat lector. "I have done that" says my memory. "I could not have done that" says my pride, and refuses to yield. Finally, my memory gives up. —Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil