Houdini: A Musical


Houdini: A Musical

from 9.95

By Muriel Rukeyser

Houdini: A Musical was performed in Lenox, MA in 1973, with Christopher Walken starring as Houdini.


6 x 9, 168 pp
Hardcover $22.00

Paperback $14.95

Also by Muriel Rukeyser: The Life of Poetry, The Orgy

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This previously unpublished verse-drama presents the life of world-renowned escape artist and illusionist, Harry Houdini. Part biography, part fantasy, the musical leads us from Houdini’s childhood in Appleton, Wisconsin (picking up pins with his eyelids) to his acts under water and his travels abroad. With pathos and playfulness, song and dance, Muriel Rukeyser introduces us to Houdini’s wife Bess and his mother Cecilia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the poet’s own Marco Bone. Throughout this remarkable work written over thirty years, Rukeyser invites readers to overcome whatever fears entrap us and — through the life of Harry Houdini — she shows us what it means to claim the physical, political, and societal freedom that is our birthright. 

Comments & Reviews

"Rukeyser's Houdini  is the most exhilarating, disturbing and triumphant theatre script I've read since Tony Kushner's Angels in America . Ahead of time and timeless, like most Rukeyser writings, it lifts straight off the page into the imagination."  Adrienne Rich

"A fabulous addition to Houdini literature. Everyone interested in Houdini needs this book!" Sidney H. Radner, former curator of the Houdini Museum and honorary curator of the Houdini Historical Center

"One strange and beautiful verse drama, this is a metaphorically lush and wryly incisive interpretation of the psyche and art of Harry Houdini…. Houdini inspires Rukeyser to ponder our love/hate relationship with our body, our desire for magic and acceptance of illusion, the link between exhibitionism and exorcism, and the eroticism of bondage and the myth of escapism…. And then there’s his wife Bess, emblematic, for Rukeyser, of longing and stoicism, who utters one of the poet’s most resounding lines, ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.'" — Booklist

 “A noted social and political activist and writer, Rukeyser (1913-80) is best known for her powerful poetry, e.g., Book of the Dead, which focuses on West Virginia coal miners dying of silicosis. Previously unpublished, this verse drama was performed once in 1973 in Lenox, MA. Here, we see the great escape artist and his wife, Bess, fall in love, marry, and face fear and death together. In the play, Bess speaks one of Rukeyser's most famous lines, which has been adopted by the women's movement: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.’ Rukeyser's poetic dialogue and songs effectively contribute to the dreamlike quality of the play. An interesting addition to Houdini lore, this is recommended for large contemporary theater art collections, as well as collections of women writers.”  Library Journal

"In addition to revealing the story of this country's tantalizing icon, Houdini offers a new understanding of Rukeyser's own work and life. Written at the height of the women's movement, the musical gives us Rukeyser's most famous lines, spoken by Houdini's wife Bess: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.’ Houdini's response, ‘It has. Now I am going after it — all pieces.’ With subtexts of desire, race, grief, and love, Houdini presents Rukeyser's gorgeous, reaching language and her brilliant observations of the human psyche. The musical will appeal to young bell-bottomed readers as well as Houdini devotees, poetry fans, drama people, and escape artists everywhere. A recipient of an NEA, Houdini joins the Rukeyser resurgence that is well underway — with the Paris Press publications of The Life of Poetry and The Orgy, and the University of Pittsburgh's 2002 reissue of The Collected Poems.” Goodreads.com