Interview with Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce, Co-Directors, Time and Space Limited

Posted September 13, 2010 by Anonymous
Christina Linden, 2009-2010 Curatorial Fellow, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
Interview Date: 
Friday, April 23, 2010
Person Interviewed: 
Linda Mussmann, Co-Director, Time & Space Limited
Claudia Bruce, Co-Director, Time & Space Limited
Place of Interview: 
Time & Space Limited, Hudson, NY


The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce on April 23, 2010. The interview took place at Time & Space Limited in Hudson, NY and was conducted by Christina Linden. This interview was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).

Claudia Bruce, Linda Mussmann and Christina Linden have reviewed the transcript and have made corrections and emendations. The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.


CHRISTINA LINDEN:  Okay, we’re recording. My name’s Christina Linden, and I’m sitting here with Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce, at Time & Space Limited, in Hudson New York. And the date today is April 23rd, 2010. And we’re going to talk about Time & Space Limited for the ASAP Archives. So I thought a very basic question, but one that might be a good place to start, Time & Space Limited, the name.

LINDA MUSSMANN: Time & Space Limited was born in New York City, New York in 1973. Since arriving in NYC in 1969 I was in a constant search of space to rehearse and perform and the time that i could afford to produce theater. It seemed the two things that I needed most and still do is TIME & SPACE.

LINDEN: Where did you come from?

MUSSMANN: I was born in Gary, Indiana. I was raised on a farm thirty miles south of Gary, The closest hospital was in Gary.

LINDEN: And you moved directly from Gary to New York City?

MUSSMANN: I spent the first 18 years of my life as a farmer and the next 4 at Purdue University. After receiving a BA in Theater and English I went to New York City. I arrived in 1969.

LINDEN:  And you founded Time & Space Limited in 1973?

MUSSMANN: I founded TSL in 1973, right.

LINDEN:  What were you doing in those first four years in New York?

MUSSMANN: From 1969 to 1973 I was directing plays, looking for ways to survive. The first theater I directed a show in was Theater East on East 59th St. After that I worked on the Lower East Side, and in a loft on Avenue A and Seventh Street. I got a loft of my own on 17th Street which gave me rehearsal space. I was in a small store front theater on 3rd and the Bowery and then I was on Bond Street in a store front. It was here that I formed TSL not far from LaMaMa. An artist named Marco Zarattini lent his space to me. I directed the BALD SOPRANO here and my own play called The Lemmings.

LINDEN: Zarattini, okay.

MUSSMANN: Zarattini. And he offered me an opportunity to use his studio for part of a space, which is the front of the storefront, we made into a little theater. That’s when I [said] “Oh, I don’t have seats,” and my friend Dennis, who worked with me closely, went to the Queens Dairy out in Queens and stole milk boxes.

BRUCE: Appropriated for the people.

MUSSMANN: [laughs] Right, appropriated some wooden milk crates, which I still carry around as a fond memory. Let’s see. When I first arrived, I worked on two plays by Joanna Russ. And that was produced at Theater East, on the Upper East Side, right by Bloomingdale’s. I was very lucky. Theater East still exists. It’s sort of interesting that I was able to get a play right away when I arrived, pretty much. And that was sort of the end of the sort of 42nd Street rehearsal spaces. It was the old New York. I got a taste of what that was like. 1960s Off Off Broadway was just being born, Off Broadway was kind of new. And we were among the the new emerging theater groups. And what was interesting about Off Off Broadway was that there were a lot of women. Interesting. Many, many theaters. There were probably between eighty and a hundred cooking, and little spaces all over the City at that time. Many people were doing new plays. I was more interested in doing experimental work and work of people like Pinter, Becket, Ionesco and re-doing some classics. I was always looking for a space. And then eventually, I got the loft 44 West 17th Street, which allowed me an opportunity to churn out the work. And with rehearsal space, I could then pretty much go anywhere.

LINDEN: And did you have a separate nine-to-five job?

MUSSMANN: I worked for the City of New York from 9 to 5, five days a week. I did this from 1970 to 1974 or 1975. I was part of Neighborhood Youth Corps, President Johnson introduced that as a solution to keeping kids busy in the summer. Lindsay was the mayor, and it was a federal program to employ youth, to keep them from burning the cities down.

BRUCE: It was the War on Poverty, wasn’t it?

MUSSMANN: Yes. And it was a great program in many ways. It did employ people. We employed a lot of the kids. They worked fifteen hours a week, at youth centers throughout the 5 boughs of NYC. I got an opportunity to see how communities worked. And I was in charge of the Bronx. And I must say, getting on the train in the summer, riding to the Bronx, as a sort of naïve white person, I certainly learned quickly how the world worked. This was the South Bronx and it was pretty much wrecked by poverty in the early 1970s.

LINDEN: So you worked in the youth center running the youth center? Or you worked mostly helping youth get employed in the youth center?

MUSSMANN: We were the administration part. It was down below City Hall. Every summer we hired hundreds of kids. And we’d make sure the kids got paid. We registered them, made sure they had their working papers, and that they had a real job. We also visited job sites. And a big job was, to get them into the computer and to make sure they got paid. And sometimes kids failed to get into the computer and then there was no check. So every Friday for six to eight weeks I would face a lot of angry kids. “Where’s my money?” they would say---and I would try to explain it and fix it.


MUSSMANN: “Well, you see, your name didn’t get in the computer correctly.” And then, you know, kids didn’t really care.

BRUCE: Were there computers?

MUSSMANN: Yes, we were all computerized at that time. And that was— you know, snags would hit because a Social Security number or something was wrong or they didn’t get in. And some kids would not get paid, really, for all summer because they had a problem. By doing this job I got to meet people in various communities and I saw politics in action, because this was definitely how you got votes. Each center got slots for their children. There were communities centers like:  the Jewish center, the Yeshivas, the black community centers, the Puerto Rican community etc.— One could see how all of it worked, in terms of feeding into the political system. Because it was about jobs. Jobs are equivalent to votes, ultimately. On the other hand, it was a good program. Besides being a political tool, which for me - coming from Indiana rural America - it was certainly an eye opener, I began to understand the system of politics, community, and economics.

LINDEN:  Right. So to jump back to Time & Space Limited, between 1973 and 1991, when you were in New York City…


LINDEN: …how many different spaces did you occupy?

MUSSMANN: I occupied many spaces from 1973 to 1991. all in New York City.

Theater East on East 59th Street

University of the Streets Avenue A & 7th st. third floor loft space

Bowery Theatre storefront space 3rd and Bowery

Zarattini Gallery Storefront 37 Bond Street

Loft work/live rehearse 44 West 17th Street

Universalist Church 4 West 76th Street

St. Clements CHurch West 46th Street

Loft space 139 West 22nd Street live/work

Store front 139-41 West 22 Street TSL's permanent home from 1976-1991

Japan Society theater on 333 East 47th Street

Cooper Hewitt Museum on 2 East 91 Street

Riverside Dance Theater

Manhattan Theater Club East 73rd Street

Merce Cunningham Studio Theater Space

Mary Mount Theater Space East 221 East 71 Street

LaMaMa Resident director 1981-2 Annex Theater

Vorpal Gallery space

AIR Gallery space

Whitney Equitable Center

Whitney, Philip Morris Atrium

Cooper Union theater/lecture space

Museum of Modern Art Garden

Village School

these are in random order.

LINDEN: Claudia, when did you become involved with Time & Space Limited?

BRUCE: Well, I got to New York City in 1969, also. And I came up North after leaving Catholic University. I graduated from Mary Baldwin in 1968— I was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and I grew up in Georgia. My father owned a textile manufacturing business. My mother was a teacher, and a visual artist and the mother of 4. And my parents took me to New York when I was fifteen. And I knew I had to live in New York one day.

I left Catholic University after a year and moved to New York in 1969. I did all kinds of jobs. I rented a space for $60 on East 6th Street, between Second and Third, with the bathtub in the kitchen. It was great. You lifted the lid on the tub and there was a great bathroom. You closed the tub and had a nice kitchen. And there was a lot of activity going on in the Village at that time. I worked as a waitress, I did some experimental video-theater pieces at LaMaMa with friends of mine around in the neighborhood. I went to all kinds of things. The Fillmore East was the big music club at the time, and it was right across the street from me. That’s where all the huge bands came in, the big ones. It was quite a scene. And I worked as an usher. My first real job in New York was as an usher at a show called Oh! Calcutta!, which was one of the first nude shows that came in around that time. It was quite an eye opener for me. You know, totally naïve. And I had a great time.And then I started working at Majority Report, which was the women’s newspaper, located on Sheridan Square. And that’s where I learned how to use a computer, which was a large CompuServe. It went all the way around, and it produced a tickertape. And then that was replaced by a big floppy disk. And you had to key in everything as you typed. So that was how I learned to use a computer. And I was pretty good at it. As a matter of fact, I was very good at it. I did a lot of that. But we also had to wax the galleys and paste each one in individually. You would print out galleys, wax the back, cut them, and paste them into the newspaper. And at the time, I was elected to be the calendar editor, which meant I went all over the city and gathered information about all the women’s events that were going on. And one of the women’s events was Linda Mussmann, who was doing The Making of Americans at the Universalist Church. And I had a friend Kikue Tashiro who went along to see the show.

MUSSMANN: by Gertrude Stein.

BRUCE: So I went up and checked that out. And that night, I met Linda. But it wasn’t until later that we worked together.

MUSSMANN: You came with Tashiro.

BRUCE: That’s right. Well, a mutual friend of ours introduced me and Kikue Tashiro and Linda that same night. We all met the same time. Kikue played a part in our history later. She was a playwright and had these crazy Japanese plays that we worked on for many years with her. But one day I was at Majority Report. And a friend of ours had told Linda, because Linda was always looking to move things around, that I had a Volkswagen bus, and I was very generous with it and I would loan it to people. So Linda comes in and wants to borrow my bus. So that’s when we connected. We met in 1976, in March, and we’ve been together ever since. Thirty-four years now. And we’ve worked twenty-four/seven, just about, ever since, together. Actually, Linda and I started living together around ’76, and we decided we wouldn’t get involved. Because I actually grew up and had done a lot of theater, like in regional theater in Georgia, and in college I had done theater. I was always interested in theater, as an actor. And we decided we wouldn’t do that because that might mess up our relationship. But then in 1977, in the fall, Linda was doing a piece with Ron Harrington, who was one of her actors. It was an essay Linda had adapted, of Virginia Woolf’s, The MOMENT. And Linda put me in that with Ron. And so that was in the fall of 1977. And I’ve done at least two shows with Linda every year since then.

LINDEN: So that rule got broken pretty quickly.

MUSSMANN: Right away.

BRUCE: Right away. We moved right along. And we had a company of anywhere from six to ten people. We worked with musicians over the years, we trained in voice. And Kikue Tashiro would train us in iaido, which is sword work, Noh and kabuki theater. She would go to Japan, study, come back and teach us different dances and things. It was like a real eye opener for me, of how to enter theater from a very formal way, instead of from “the Method.”

LINDEN:  So during these years that you were in New York City and operating as a theater company that was semi-nomadic, can you just talk a little bit about some of the other art spaces, theater companies, organizations that were really formative, or with which you felt like you had very strong allies during those times?

MUSSMANN: Everybody was searching to create their own identity. Claudia and I didn’t go to any of the New York theater schools, so we were very much outsiders. And being women made a difference, too. There were relationships with gay men in the gay male community, but for gay women, or women in general, it was harder to connect with groups. If you didn’t go to NYU or Columbia or Yale, you were trying to figure out, how do you create this space in New York City? What does it mean? And when I got a space on the Upper West Side in the 1970s, it was like being on the moon.  Everybody was downtown and I headed uptown, because I got a great space. So there was always these conflicts. And who are you? Where do you come from? Being a farmer’s daughter was clearly a weird idea. There was a lot of experiments that really interested me. Grotowski’s theater and Artaud. Theater that was about a dedicated group and ensemble was interesting to me. I didn’t like the idea of a new playwright and young actors; it made no sense to me. I loved the modernist like Pinter, Beckett, Ionesco Brecht etc. Though that was out of fashion, because they had just been done, or not done at all, or people were either realists or they were working with new playwrights like Ellen Stewart at LaMaMa. And I was a very talented and bright director, and I was looking for projects that fit my vision - which supported a strong directorial point of view. And when I moved to the west side with my work to a space in The Universalist Church on West 76th Street, I started to serve the community by directing the moderns and the classics. The deal was that I would address that community by having discussions to engage the upper west side residents, which at that time, was primarily family and long-time New York middle class residents. So I started doing the classics like Ibsen Strindberg, Chekhov, and Strindberg – plays like that. And the reason I did them is because they were royalty free - the playwright was long dead, so I didn’t have to deal with the playwright. And I could carve them up, chop them up, make them to suit my own particular needs. So I did Hedda Gabler. And once again, the milk boxes emerged. I think I had twelve milk boxes for that set. The boxes were stacked in different ways to provide a space for the various scenes. The costumes were all black and white and the faces were white and only Hedda was in red with vibrant make up. She was surrounded by ghost-like figures. Out of necessity, I was forced to be minimal. The space was shared by others so I had to pack things up and leave the space empty during the week. I had to figure out how to put the set away during the week. I got the weekends, the church activities had the space during the week. So I had to always come up with inventive ways to store something in a large storage box that I constructed there in the room.

LINDEN: And what type of space was this?

MUSSMANN: This was the hall in the side of a church. It was a huge hall. High ceilings. Big. Maybe it was 100' X 60'  with ceilings of 18' to 20.’ Large room - empty. I constructed one big wooden closet to throw my junk in. Otherwise, I shared it with the church. They had a singles night, twice a week, Wednesday and Friday night. And that was how they saved the church. At that time the church was desperate for money to keep going. People would sit in circles, talk about all their problems, and they would get, I don’t know, ten bucks at the door. And hundreds and hundreds of people came. It was better than going to a bar and became a very popular way for people looking to connect with others. And itsaved the Universalist Church.

LINDEN: [over Mussmann; inaudible] Right. So it was the Universalist Church that invited you, with the stipulation that you address the immediately surrounding community.

MUSSMANN: Yes, we split the box office. But the stipulation really was, that I had to reach out to the community. Which is what I did. I started to discuss the play after the performances.. And that’s why I started to stand up every night and say “Well, let’s talk about the play.” And I got into having these long discussions, which were very interesting to the people who came. One of the first things I ever did was Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. And I wasn’t really clear about getting the rights. I just kept on working and waiting for the rights and finally they called me and told me you can't do the play. I was about to open so I made a desperate appeal to do the play. It had not been done since it opened on Broadway. They granted me the rights. I got Grossman's local bakery to bake the cake and we were on the way to a success. Actually this was the second show I did here. The first was Sartre's NO EXIT which I did in the main church space on the alter. It was August and hot. It was a big hit. We were packed.Emery Lewis from the BERGEN RECORD reviewed the show and loved it.

LINDEN: So approximately what years were you at the Universalist Church?

MUSSMANN: 1973 to 1976.

BRUCE: In 1976, you did The Creditors. That’s when I was working with you.

MUSSMANN: I broke out of the Universalist Church because I was tired of sharing the space. I directed Uncle Vanya, I directed Wild Duck,  Hedda, Play Strindberg and more classics. I directed some Brecht and Pinter. The last thing I directed there was The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein. I adapted it and that finished the deal. Stein ended the relationship at the church space. People were not ready for such radical work.

I headed downtown. I moved that piece to Vorpal Gallery and to St. Clements. And then I exited. I moved to a loft space on 22nd Street and looked for a new job. I worked in a school - better hours.

LINDEN: Why that, specifically? Why was that a tipping point, do you think?

MUSSMANN: With Gertrude Stein, there was no story. And it was just too weird and peculiar. And I was getting nutty from doing all these plays. I really was sick of the theater. And, at the time, the women’s movement was raging, and feminism was harping away at my mind. And I was thinking: Where are the women in the classics? I did one show dedicated to women’s work at the 76th Street space called EVERYTHING IS THE SAME AND EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. It was an assemblage of works by Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Tillie Olsen, and others. It was based on literature - other than theater. This was a very successful piece and it helped me move outside  plays to find ideas for the theater. That project: EVERYTHING IS THE SAME AND EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT moved me into novels. And I was always obsessed with non-acting, non-narrative, non-story, non-character stuff. Literature presented me with long speeches of interesting ideas and the challenge of how to do them. And Stein was difficult for me,  but finally after reading the The Making of Americans, it clicked. That was 1976. And that’s where I wanted to go. And I wanted to get out of that church and move, just get out. I had had enough of sharing the space and having to move things. I made a set for Uncle Vanya out of string – just string. Birthday Party was all doors that we ripped off of old tenements and dragged into the space. It was all too distracting after awhile. My energy to be flexible was getting used up. So with THE MAKING OF AMERICANS my birthday present to America, 1976 - and to myself.

Also I had a fire in my loft. Things changed. I found a new loft, a new space. And that was really what drove me. Soon after I rented the 3rd floor loft, I was able to rent the storefront in the same building.When I got the storefront on 22nd Street, it was a dream come true.The space was a classic black box - 100' X 20' with 10' ceilings – and, best of all,  mine around the clock.

BRUCE: A true shoebox.

MUSSMANN: Yes. Stein really opened that door up. Nobody understood what I was up to. I just took a chapter out of THE MAKING OF AMERICANS, Martha Hersland chapter, and did it. And we ran around in circles. Loving repeating - it was more like music than theater and it was more like dance than theater and there was no apparent story. It was great. Later I repeated the adaptation at the storefront with Claudia. She was the best at this work. We called it "the Re-Making of The Making of Americans.”

BRUCE: There were six of us in the re-making of The Making of Americans.

MUSSMANN: And it’s great stuff. Loving is repeating - loving repeating is one way of being. I mean, it goes on and on. It was perfect. I learned a lot about language and the history of language, and that broke the door open to writing my own stuff. Stein really was the trigger to get there. Then I wrote a piece called Room Raum, which was my own.

BRUCE: But you had written stuff before that—KO-KO-RO and stuff like that.

MUSSMANN: Yes, but they were like plays. They were more imitations of plays. And a lot of them were imitations of Sam Beckett, who I was really obsessed with. And I was sick of him. You know you always have to kill your father - the authority in our life. What we think we admire, what we think we aspire to imitate - somehow, that has to be done away with. So that was what my early work was - a struggle to imitate the ones I admired. It was a long journey to move away from the post-World War II guys, like the Pinters, Becketts, Ionescos, and move into what I wanted to do. And I don’t know if I got there. I’m still trying.

LINDEN: There’s still time to keep trying. So how long were you in the storefront on 22nd Street?

BRUCE: Until we moved TSL to Hudson, New York in 1991.

LINDEN: Oh. So ’76 to ’91. Is that right?

MUSSMANN: We performed in the storefront and rehearsed in the storefront and we worked outside that space as well - in places like the Cunningham Studio, LaMaMa, Mary Mount Theater, Riverside Theater, the Museum of Modern Art, and other alterative spaces.

BRUCE: The storefront on 22nd Street was the home place.

LINDEN: What was the address there?

MUSSMANN: 139-41 West 22nd Street.

LINDEN: What was the cross?

BRUCE: We were between Sixth and Seventh. That was before anything was there on the corner. That was when all the industry would leave at five and we had a nice quiet neighborhood. It was great. And there were a couple of loft buildings that became very expensive co-op lofts. But we were right there in the middle. That’s gone now. Those were torn down, our space was torn down two or three years ago, and they built this huge high-rise or something.

MUSSMANN: We were also a few blocks away from John Cage and Merce Cunningham, who became fans of ours – and mentors.

BRUCE: Yeah.

MUSSMANN: Merce and John started to watch our work in the early eighties. They would come around. When we were in the storefront, I remember John called me. It was Christmas. Wanted to come over and see what we were doing. I said, “Well, it’s Christmas.” [laughs] He had time off.

LINDEN: Right.

MUSSMANN: But we eventually got to be good friends and Merce and John attended quite a few pieces during the 1980s.

LINDEN: So this opens up a question about where you started to move away from thinking just maybe about theater more specifically. Your program here is really broader. Were you looking at— I mean, Merce is considered mostly, you know, in the realm of dance, John Cage mostly art. But both of them are figures that kind of cross over. And I’m really interested in where these borders get drawn and how people start to think about other kinds of art. You know, where the crossover between dance and visual art and theater starts to happen. Were you looking explicitly at, you know, visual arts spaces at all during that time?

BRUCE: We worked at Merce’s dance studio quite a bit. And that was another “go in, do the show and clean up” gig. Because they had studio class there all the time. Linda’s work was reviewed by dance critics more than theater critics, because it had more of an abstract nature to it, in the sense of how she presented her ideas. They weren’t didactic or story oriented. So the theater people really didn’t get it, weren’t really interested.


BRUCE: Because theater is theater. So the dance critics were the ones who reviewed Linda’s work, which was kind of bizarre. We used movement and words. The texts were long poems – you could say it that way. Long non- narrative. There was always a rhythm to them, there was always an other meaning to them that if you could say them the right way. I was – and am - very good at it. Also Linda would hear people’s voices. The more Linda worked with performers, the more she would write for their voices. As far as what we did theatrically, we still do that kind of work. It was not until we came up to Hudson, when we got this space, that we started to imagine how to engage this community. We looked out the door and said, “Hey, we can do things. Let’s see what we can do in this community here.”

LINDEN: So jumping back a little bit—and then I’d like to start talking more about Hudson specifically—what was your audience on 22nd Street? I’m sort of interested in the mandate you had at the Universalist Church, and then suddenly you have a space that comes without, you know, a mandate about…

BRUCE: Freedom, yes.

LINDEN:  …surrounding community. But clearly, surrounding community’s been an interest for a long time for you. So what was your audience? What was your audience at 22nd Street?

MUSSMANN: I learned a lot about community from different experiences. For example, in 1968, I went to Chicago and I worked at the Hull House Theater. And that really stuck in my brain. Jane Addams was one of the great social justice leaders in the nineteenth century. And working at Jane’s place, which was then transformed into a theater meant that the settlement house became theater. It merged, it morphed into a theater, and was really the only avant-garde theater in Chicago. And I was lucky enough to spend the summer there while I worked as a secretary for a medical association during the day. I’m not sure what they did. I was just paid to sit there and type. And when I didn’t have anything to do, I wrote poetry. After work I would rehearse with director Bob Sickenger and then we would go out and talk theater. Bob liked beer so to get information I went out and talked and listened.  And I drank as much beer as I could all night, and then I’d try to recover and get to work, and slowly would wake up and then go to rehearsal and watch this amazing director work in the Jane Addams settlement house theater. Later I learned more about Addams and Hull House which was constructed to reach out to poor people and help them have access to education. The summer I was in Chicago was just before the Democratic Convention of 1968.

BRUCE: Community.

MUSSMANN: So the Jane Addams Hull House Theater in Chicago really was the first kind of space that combined community and culture. Intuitionally, I got it. And it took a long time. TSL probably is the acting out of that original sort of impression – of Jane Addams in Chicago. Well, how did the Hull House Theater turn into a theater? I mean, how did Hull House settlement house turn into a theater? And then how does TSL actually turn into a settlement house? The kind of settlement house which is really directed toward education, outreach, and inclusion. Inclusion has always been a big thing in my life and Claudia’s. You have got to understand that people have attitudes about women, they have attitudes about farmers, they have attitudes about people who didn’t go to the right school. I mean, pretty much everything we did—

BRUCE: And attitudes about Southerners.

MUSSMANN: Yes and Southerners. Pretty much everything I experienced in my life was outside where I was supposed to be. And pretty much everywhere that I entered, I got there through the back door, through some bizarre, peculiar way. I mean, how do you end up at the Museum of Modern Art playing in the Summer Garden, checking out Picasso’s Goat? It was just peculiar circumstances that allowed us to arrive at certain places. For example, I wanted to be in the Riverside Theatre, and it was all about the dance theater. So I said, “Claudia, let’s go up there. We’ll do a audition, and you move.” So she moved, we got in. And we weren’t a dance company, but Claudia could move and I could create dance. You know, we could figure out how to move. Claudia could move and talk. We were ahead of the game. [Linden laughs] So if there is a way, there’s the will to succeed— If there was a way to figure out how to maneuver to get something done, that is what I’m really good at. And if there’s a problem, how to get around it is when I really perk up. So life without obstacles is kind of boring for me. So the easy street was when New York became less interesting for me. Because a lot of the interesting people left. Or died or moved out or couldn’t afford to be there. And this sort of generic group of people started to inhabit the theater spaces. And that really wasn’t a lot of fun.

LINDEN: Can you name a few figures whose death or departure from New York, you know, marked the—

MUSSMANN: Change was in the air. It was economic, it was AIDs, and it was the beginning of the next generation to move forward. AIDS was a huge blow. I think the election of Ronald Reagan in 1981 was definitely a signal that you’d better get your bags packed. It was clear that real estate prices were going up and people were being pushed out. A lot of people who worked with us drove a cab and were on unemployment…

BRUCE: Worked as waitresses.

MUSSMANN: …and I could give them a couple bucks, and we could do a lot of great work. And then the economy began to choke people and drove them out. And the other thing that affected us was the NEA censorship issue in 1989, 1990, when we turned back that money to NEA over that issue. And we were only one of four theater companies in the whole USA to do that. The low turn out of people giving money back showed that a lot of people didn't give a rat's ass about doing the right thing when it comes to moral, ethical issues. And what marks Claudia’s and my generation is that we became artists because we ultimately had something to say. And our work was driven by the  “I’ve got something to say” and this is my tool. How I’m going to say it is through my art.

LINDEN: That’s a great kind of outline of the larger movements. I was wondering specifically, though, if you can name a few other people…

MUSSMANN: Megan Terry moved to Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1960s and created a theater company there. That was curious. Actors and dancers died of AIDS. Theater of the Ridiculous Charles Ludlam died in 1987. People left the scene. Little theaters closed. They could not pay the rents etc. It was the general movement of the time.

LINDEN:  …or companies who were working in the theater scene, whose departure from that scene caused you to be ready to kind of exit.

BRUCE: We were some of the first to project what was going to happen to the artistic community. So we were among those who starting looking outside New York, in the sense of really finding our own space. In July, we begin our twentieth year here in Hudson. Which is kind of remarkable. When Ronald Reagan became president, Linda looked at me and said, “We’re not going to feel this for four or five years, but then it’s really going to hit. And we have to start thinking about down the road, how we’re going to survive this.” And we bought a place in the Columbia County in 1983. We kept going out of the city in the summers, to work on various things. We would read and Linda would write. We would get our season ready, we would go back and do all that. We started staying up here more and thinking - Can we do what we want to do outside the city? I don’t know that there were any specific people that actually left that influenced us to leave. I think we were some of the first people to take the step.

MUSSMANN: We were probably among the first to leave voluntarily.

BRUCE: Our friend and artist, Harmony Hammond sold her loft on 22nd Street and left for New Mexico. Harmony was part of the feminist magazine/collective called Heresies and the A.I.R gallery.

And Lucy Lippard. They both went to New Mexico. More visual artists than theater artists were moving out.

MUSSMANN: It was economic. We were forcing the change, because I spent a lot of time in court fighting over our lofts. That was becoming tougher.

BRUCE: Six years.

MUSSMANN: We got to know John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and watched their work and watched what it took to…

BRUCE: Sustain.

MUSSMANN: …sustain their work. And how connected they were and how unconnected we were, in the sense of the division between the people who had accomplished a great deal of things, and how were we ever going to survive in the climate? I think Megan Terry left New York City in the sixties or early seventies and managed to survive.

BRUCE: Yeah.

MUSSMANN: Because I had directed some of Terry’s plays when I was a college student, I always thought about her going to Omaha, Nebraska. Where is that? And what are you doing out there? And I thought, that’s really weird. And then I think when things stick in your brain like that, something bothers you about it that you dismiss it, and yet it’s not dismissed because it actually was a great opportunity to move into a place where there wasn’t this type of culture. And that was what— I think New York, for us, had so much culture and art and other places had so little. NYC has a constant stream that keeps feeding more people into the system. And you were constantly competing, not only with your peers but with the new people. And you’re struggling to get an audience and you’re asked to do more. And that becomes a bigger issue. And here in Hudson, there wasnothing. And the idea of actually taking the avant-garde and putting it in a place like Columbia County, which is totally foreign to the idea, was really an intriguing idea. Especially after NEA. Especially after seeing that people really were more concerned about the money than the morality of the issue or the ethics of an issue. And Claudia and I were coming out of the Vietnam and feminist movements. We were approaching the doing and making of art from another point of view.  People needed money so badly they could care less where it came from or who gave it. Also, these were the Philip Morris days. Philip Morris used to fund a lot of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Selling cigarettes and supporting the arts. And people started pulling away from Philip Morris being sponsors. And there was the Newport Jazz Festival and more cigarettes. People gradually started to say, wait a minute. The things that are supporting art are making people sick. Where are they getting their money? This is clearly headache-y business. We were of the generation where we had a critical eye and asked many questions.

BRUCE: I don’t know how many people like us have actually gone out and had the success that we’ve had in non-urban communities. I mean, I really don’t. You probably know more than we do.

LINDEN: I mean, I think it depends on how you define success, you know? And I think you’ve done a great job because you’ve adapted, because you’ve really, like, stopped, looked around and said, you know, what drives my practice? What’s essential to it for me? But also, what do people need here? You know, and where can those things meet? And what other programs do we need to develop so that people feel engaged here? And that’s kind of a complicated set of questions. And I think people have more or less success in navigating that terrain, you know. But yeah, Lucy Lippard was talking just two or three weeks ago—because she received the Curatorial award this year…

BRUCE: That’s right, that’s right.

LINDEN: …in New York City, to a group of our students.

BRUCE: Maybe we should just take a moment, until Linda comes back. Because someone’s tearing down the back— the door here.

LINDEN: You know, I don’t want to go on too long because I think it’s really important to get your input here. But for instance, Lucy was talking about—

BRUCE: Lucy Lippard [inaudible].

LINDEN: You know, she and Harmony have a community there and they’re really engaged in things like water rights and land usage, more than they’re engaged in building a kind of public art presence there, you know? So she still remains engaged in some way, but it’s a very different kind of project from what you’ve taken on here. 

BRUCE: Well, actually, it isn’t, because our involvement as TSL is one thing. But, outside TSL, Linda has run for mayor three times.


BRUCE: We say the whole thing, is all theater. It is all theater. If you can’t take the heat in any of it, you’ve got to get out of the kitchen. So many of the things that we’re doing in the community are a part of our theater experience. Without the discipline of theater techniques, community organizing, running for office, and running an art space would be very hard. I was going to say when Lucy left New York, she left her archives to Bard. And we were there when all of her art was on exhibit at the center.  It was phenomenal.

MUSSMANN: Lucy wrote a book called The Lure of the Local. It is interesting in relation to the work we do here. When I watch people come into the community and what that does to them, I think there’s something within this generation— or I don’t know, this group of people that I watch, that desires community. That they haven’t really had it. That they’ve been raised alone or they are alone. Claudia and I certainly were raised in the ultimate of communities. And having that experience to share is how we’ve constructed TSL and is a major part of how it all works. And I think that’s a foreign idea for many people.

LINDEN: And when you say people, when you say this group of people that you see that seem not to have had the feeling of growing up in a community, can you define a little bit more what you mean?

BRUCE[?]: A lot of young people, who haven’t had the experience of being together as a family or working together to make something grow or working on a theater project.

MUSSMANN: I see it here in Hudson, totally. The people that come here, move here. They say, “I walked into Hudson one day and I just thought, This is it. This is where I wanted to be.” And then they’re trying to figure out, well, what— I mean, when people say that, what do you mean? Is it some kind of intuitional responded to the buildings, or what? I think they see something that they think is here, or they think can help them survive the twenty-first century— which is ultimately the idea of constructing a place, looking for a place. And New York City is probably the most place-less place there is, because it’s constantly…

BRUCE: Shifting.

MUSSMANN: …being renovated and shifting. You can say, Oh, my favorite coffee shop. I’ve known that forever, and it’s gone. And you can’t remember what it was. It’s amazing how quickly it’s erased.

LINDEN: Right, right, right. But I think something else about New York City is you don’t get this over-wrought tension between people who’ve been considered to be newly arrived…

MUSSMANN: Oh, right. Definitely.

LINDEN: …and people who consider themselves to be native in some sense, you know? 

MUSSMANN: No, that’s not there.

LINDEN: And certainly here in Hudson, that seems like that’s one of the major things you’ve had to deal with since you’re here.


LINDEN: Right? This question of what is local…

BRUCE: Who’s new.

LINDEN: …and who gets to own that, and who gets to participate in that.

MUSSMANN: Which is, I think, the idea of Lucy’s book  - what is that lure? I want to be a local. I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be local. If you’re on a farm, you want to get somewhere. [laughs] You’ve got to get out. If you see the light, you want to get out. If you would have told me I was going to end up in Hudson, New York, twenty years ago, I’d have laughed my head off. I mean, this is the last place I wanted be when I started out.

BRUCE[?]: Twenty years ago you came here, so…


BRUCE[?]: …you’ve got to revise that number. [they laugh]

MUSSMANN: Twenty-five, thirty, forty. I mean, if you said I’m going to end up and drop dead and die in Hudson, New York, I’d say no way. That place, which is, you know, so small, so local, so fish bowl, you know.

BRUCE: We both grew up in communities like that. I mean, I grew up in Corniela, Georgia…

MUSSMANN: [chuckles] Whoa! Let me out of here!

BRUCE: …you know, a town of 3,500 people. Linda grew up on a farm in a very small place. And then we were drawn to the city. And one of the things you learn, of course, in the city is that you form your own community families in the city. And I think that when people come here, they want to do the same thing. Linda and I grew up when families had three meals a day together. I mean, there’s not many people who can say that anymore, anywhere. The young people who go to Bard - a lot of them didn’t grow up in families like that. There’s a disjointedness that people feel. So they’re looking for this—

LINDEN: A way to build their own community.

BRUCE: The way to build their own community and their family. People walk in here. We’ve had so many people walk in, they look, they say, “[gasps] This is what New York used to be like.” I mean, it’s an old warehouse. I mean, we were in old warehouses everywhere. We fixed them up and then people would come in and buy them up — look at SoHo.

LINDEN: So we try and[?] do something a little bit more boring, trying to lay out a chronology, just because that’s useful for people doing research and whatnot later. Let me flip this tape over. So you said you’d been coming out of New York City and spending time in the country in the summers, starting in the early eighties, in fact, already. Or early nineties.

MUSSMANN: 1982-83.

LINDEN: Something like that.

MUSSMANN: Well, we wanted to look for a place in the country.

BRUCE: We had spent time away from NYC in the early 80s

LINDEN: Where were you going? Was it around here?

BRUCE: We went to the center of the state, around New Berlin, around Burlington.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. Earlville and New Berlin, NY.

BRUCE: And we would rent a space. Totally pastoral.

MUSSMANN: Cows were out there.We had ponds, cats, dogs.

BRUCE: We hiked the cats out and the dogs. We had a couple of dogs. And we would spend a month, maybe six weeks there. And we would do that. Usually, we’d rent from someone for a couple years. Then we started realizing, because of the loft situation was at risk and what was going on in the city, Uh-oh, our future is probably not here, because we’re not able to buy our loft or secure a space for TSL we should look for alternatives.

MUSSMANN: Yeah, in the eighties.

BRUCE: Our living and working spaces might be lost…..

MUSSMANN: Yeah, our landlords said they were going to sell the building. And we went, Uh-oh, we’re in trouble. Because we not only had the storefront where we did our work, but we also lived there. So we were losing two things, the place to live and the place to work.

LINDEN: Okay. So when did you first come to Hudson?

BRUCE: Well, we were here in Columbia County, New York in 1983. We bought the house in Gallatin. It had a barn and about 15 acres. And we started going out from there and seeing what was around.

MUSSMANN: But we never came into Hudson.

BRUCE: No, not much.

MUSSMANN: The grocery stores were out in Greenport and…

BRUCE: And the green markets and stuff.

MUSSMANN: …really, there was nothing to come to Hudson for. It was just a small city that had lost its main street appeal. We’d pass through it, but I never remembered much about Hudson……

BRUCE: And every year, we would kind of stay up a week longer, come a week earlier, you know? We had illegally sublet our living space in the building in New York.

LINDEN: You had a sublet in the same storefront, the same building where the storefront was located, yeah.

BRUCE: Right. And so those were both sublet. And we would do that. That year, we did it. And we looked at each other and said, “Let’s see if they’ll stay there, and let’s see what we can find up here. Let’s see if we can do it.” So it wasn’t a plan that we had planned years ahead. [chuckles] It came up. We said, “Okay, let’s try.” And they stayed there, and that gave us an amount of income so that we could stay and start looking for places. And we saw this place around 1989, ’90-something. We looked at a lot of places. We looked in Millerton, we looked all over. Southern Columbia County was fairly cheap at the time, this place came up and we— The minute we walked in, we knew.

MUSSMANN: The threat of losing the loft, and going through the legal battles of the loft law, was too much. We could probably still have those lofts today. But the amount of fighting, the amount of strain to keep them became less important to actually having a home. And I think some of that became apparent with giving the NEA money back and our age.

BRUCE: Yeah.

MUSSMANN: There’s a certain energy. New York requires a lot of energy. And there’s a point where you get a more tired, tired of arguing and fighting over a little spot and it seems to be less important when we thought of alternatives—

LINDEN: If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you both when you left New York?

BRUCE: Well, Linda’s sixty-three…

MUSSMANN: I was forty-something.

BRUCE: …and I’m sixty-four. And—

MUSSMANN: We were forty.

BRUCE: We were forty, early forties.

MUSSMANN: You know, we loved New York but everything has limits. And we had a bunch of reviews. You had a bunch of stuff, we’d accomplished a lot; but in reality, there’s  a credibility issue. How long do you keep begging and groveling to get that little chunk of real estate in New York, to get that little review, to get that . . . well, there’s a point where you say, enough.


MUSSMANN: How much do you want to crawl and bow down and scrap to get that little piece of New York City. And maybe it has to do with age, it has to do with the future. And I do go back to Ronald Reagan and the pressure at that time. Ellen Stewart was losing her money at NEA; they refused to fund her. She was terribly broke. Because she was producing a lot of foreign companies, and they wanted this money to be for Americans. You could smell the shift and you could see the conservative element moving in.

LINDEN: Who were the other three companies that sent back the money, do you know? 

BRUCE: It was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and there was a place in San Francisco, and Joe Papp's The Public Theater.

MUSSMANN: Joseph Papp.

BRUCE: There were four of us.

MUSSMANN: And then there were some visual artists. But the theater companies, there was only four.

BRUCE: There was only four of us. I was kind of shocked that there were so few.

LINDEN: So you left New York. You left a certain kind of critical acknowledgement, as you said, that came primarily from a dance community. And we assume you left some kind of audience that you’d built up, right?

MUSSMANN: We had an audience.

LINDEN: And then you arrive here. How long after you moved into this space did you start producing?

BRUCE: First off, we were told you had to survive 5 years on our own.

LINDEN: Right away?


BRUCE: We did Grief Has Taught Us Nothing in this space, with almost nothing. We did Macbeth.

MUSSMANN: But I had a radio project with the German Radio Sender Fries Berlin. We had also just toured Poland and Switzerland.

BRUCE: That’s right.

MUSSMANN: German radio projects helped support us and were critical to our survival. We did a performance version of that piece up at RPI in TROY. And then we did a piece here for the banker, because we were trying to get the mortgage. [laughs] We opened the space up as quickly as we could. I think John Cage had just died.

BRUCE: He did, he died the day we had our big opening here, August 13, 1992 .

MUSSMANN: That was sort of the beginning opening. We hadn’t really put the money into it. But we had different things we started to produce right here. We also did something in Hudson prior to this building. We were working in a house, one of the big houses. We did a little piece, sort of a multimedia piece, for the community based on Hedda Gabler.  Macbeth is the last piece we did in New York, at Cunningham’s studio. And that piece, we toured in Poland and Switzerland. So we were doing a combination of things while we were trying to put this together, and testing the waters of how things would go here.

BRUCE: We were also remembering that we had to sustain ourselves for five years here.

LINDEN: You were told that?

BRUCE: Yeah, just in general.

LINDEN: Who told you that?

BRUCE: Just people. They’d say, you know, “You’ve got to do it for five years.” And when we got the mortgage on this building, Linda told the banker we’d be paying it off in five years. And he laughed. And when we did—

MUSSMANN: Yeah, we had a balloon mortgage. I’d never heard of this in my life. I thought, Well, what does that mean? He said, “Well, you basically renegotiate the mortgage.” “You mean I’d have to pay all those closing costs, I’d have to pay all that extra money?” I said, “Well, we’re going to get done with this. I don’t want to do this again. It’s a lot of money wasted.” And I also felt TSL needed no more rent. No more, I’ve got to pay that thing every month. We wanted to be free of that. I mean, it really was driven by what sort of stumped us in our development in the city. You always had to come up with these chunks of money to do stuff. Whereas if you had a home, it would be different. Even though we’re still paying chunks of money - one chunk is replaced by another chunk. Now it’s the electric bill or the [Bruce laughs] insurance or—

BRUCE: Oh, yeah.

MUSSMANN: Anyway, we did succeed in paying off the mortgage.

BRUCE: We burned the mortgage in five years. Kind of pissed the bank off. They’re talking to us again, after twenty years, fifteen years.

MUSSMANN: But in our forties, you know, the idea of mortgages and property and ownership and like, Oh, my God. You know, we were living like…

BRUCE: Vagabonds.

MUSSMANN: We were the underground. And the underground all of a sudden became above ground. You know, if this had been New York, we’d have been living in this building. But in Hudson, you can’t live in the building; everybody would know it. We had to be legit. So Hudson legitimized TSL. In a bizarre way, the avant-garde [laughs] became legitimized because of Hudson. Because of the mortgage we had to do things correctly. We had to grow up and be above board.

BRUCE: And it was also not a friendly atmosphere to move into, because we were new people. We took over a major piece of property that they probably wanted to use for some HUD development or something. Who knows? And we were artists. And we got a lot of resistance.

MUSSMANN: Lesbians getting a big chunk of property in the middle of Hudson was not something that Hudson had dreamed would ever happen.

BRUCE: You know, everybody used to park out here. And one of the first thing we did was to tell them they couldn’t park out. And we had, jars of rotten tomatoes thrown and broken glass all over the parking lot We’d just clean it up every day. Every day. Every day. Every day. I guess they didn’t have anymore after a while. [Mussmann laughs] But that’s what you did.

MUSSMANN: It wasn’t a welcome-to-Hudson atmosphere.

BRUCE: Oh, no.

MUSSMANN: It was pretty tough.

BRUCE: The police would follow us around. It was just shenanigans. But Linda and I grew up in small places; we know that kind of stuff.

LINDEN: And as lesbians, were there other gays here?

MUSSMANN: There were maybe a few gay women, mostly gay men. We were pretty much struggling to keep our place going, so we weren’t hanging out too much. We did help get the the Hudson Opera House going. We helped that idea get introduced, and then we left it, moved on. We knew a lot of people in the community through some of the things we got involved with. So it was sort of a slow build and how you find out who’s who. You don’t have a lot to choice in a place like Hudson.

LINDEN: Did you live nearby? Do you still live nearby? You said you can’t live in the building, but—

BRUCE[?]: We live right around the corner.

LINDEN: Same place since you’ve been here?

MUSSMANN: No, we sold our country place. And then we found this place on State Street.

BRUCE: Which Linda liked. [chuckles] A lot. I was going to try to live within five miles...

MUSSMANN: “Which Linda liked.” [laughs]

BRUCE: …out of Hudson, but it turned out…

MUSSMANN: I get blamed for that?

BRUCE: …very nice, because you know, I can walk to work and it’s right there. Of course, it means we’re never out of Hudson, but we bring the world to us.

MUSSMANN: I’ve run for mayor a few times. By living in Hudson, we then became more politically active. We did a lot around the cement plant argument and have done a lot around environmental issues.

LINDEN: It was around 2001 that that kind of—

MUSSMANN: I ran for mayor in 2001, 2003, and 2007.

BRUCE: Linda was the head of the Hudson City Democratic Committee for four years. During that time, we had to rent other spaces in Hudson for the headquarters – because TSL is a not-for-profit and can’t have anything to do with political campaigns.

MUSSMANN: But we did neighborhood watch, also…

BRUCE: When we came here in the early 90s there were lots of drugs on the street..

MUSSMANN: There was a shooting up here on Fifth Street in ’94. I drive a red truck and we would pull out of the parking lot and kids would solicit us right there. And we said- Wait a minute; I didn’t come to Hudson to have drugs pushed in my face. We lived next door to a heroin-crack dealer. Then got involved with neighborhood watch, we got involved with getting the police animated. We did a lot of speaking out about the crime in Hudson. And that was very controversial. People were threatening us. People were not happy that we were talking about Hudson that way. I mean, there was constant TV coverage here, there was— You know, we got to know the press. In many ways, our performance skills, our theater skills automatically fed into our ability to bring attention to an issue.

BRUCE: That’s what I meant about theater - all the talents you learn as a theater person, we use them in everything.

MUSSMANN: Claudia is a great graphic designer. We needed a letterhead, bingo, we had one. You needed a press release, we knew where to send them. People knew us through TSL, so we weren’t strangers.

BRUCE: We actually got more coverage from New York City when we came up here than we did when we were there.

LINDEN: There, right. Did you have to have any other day jobs, quote/unquote “day jobs” here?

MUSSMANN: No, never.

BRUCE: No, we always managed. We’re still managing. Yeah.

LINDEN: So the theater productions that are still the backbone of what you did here, at what point did you start to add other types of activities? I mean, not to diminish the way that everything is theater, as you mentioned, but you know, there’s been art exhibitions, there’s been youth workshops, there continue to be—

BRUCE: Movies.

LINDEN: Movies.

BRUCE: We started movies in 1994, to bring people into the space because we knew that as art house goers in New York City, that was one of the things that had informed our own work.

LINDEN: Right.

BRUCE: You know, the history of movies and the great directors. We started showing those and met yet another community, started bringing them in. We’d get them interested in our work. And then we would meet artists and Linda would have yet another great idea for an art exhibit, most of them theme oriented. And all of a sudden all of these artists who would be interested. We did exhibits - one called FISHING - Art Along the Hudson. And people brought, fishing gear, flys, an ice boat, handmade boats and, just, incredible artifacts.


BRUCE: Documenting the allies of Hudson. Another one was SHOUT based on how people were outraged by the war, and what they brought to it. I mean, we just have filled the space with so many of those things. Kids have been coming here since we’ve been here. We used to have four little girls who lived on the block. They’d wander down the alley and they’d say, “Whatcha doin’? Whatcha doin’?” And we would start with some peanut butter and jelly and move on to an art project. Open the door. We would feed kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after school, because they were hungry. Linda got so she would buy the bread. She made inroads into the Rotary Club and we would come to work in the morning, and hanging on our door, from the Rotary Club, would be plastic bags filled with peanut butter and jelly. And after school, the kids would come and we would feed them. And then our friend Jun Maeda, who is the set designer at La Mama, would come up, and then he started doing these weaving workshops with them – very complex stuff using soda cans that are cut into strips and then weaved into mats or objects. And then little by little, we started formalizing more of the youth programs, and Maija Reed became youth director, she was here for eight years, working very closely in the community and with the children. We had different spaces for the kids projects. Eventually we had a small house dedicated to them and then we built a new space, with a gift from Congresswoman Gillibrand, for a dedicated youth space in the first floor of TSL.

The movies run weekly, the Metropolitan Opera HD runs the entire season, the satellites deliver National Theater of London and special events like Prairie Home Companion, and we still keep the art gallery going..

The new youth space has just opened. So the youth space is now open for business. And now we move on to what we call our second generation of youth programs, where we are insisting that they be art related and not so much social services. Which is something we really have tried to resist, because we’re artists.

LINDEN: But you have, at some point in time, I saw, for instance, done mentoring programs with Bard students to help encourage people to think about the possibility of college, or just to…

MUSSMANN: We have done a lot of that, yeah.

LINDEN: … do tutoring and things like that.

MUSSMANN: We’re in a transitional point right now.

LINDEN: Right.

MUSSMANN: When we shifted out, the Bard tutoring program ended up the library while we were under construction---and I think it is better there in the long run. And so it’s a good place for it. It’s much more of a passing-through center. So as long as it exists, it doesn’t matter whether it’s here or there. We’ve done a lot of exchanges, we’ve done a lot of traveling, we’ve taken kids to camp. Some of it is the economics, some of it’s driven by the space. Now that we have a permanent space, I think the kids can have more things that come out of the art world. The youth program really got started through Matthew Thompson, who adopted Claudia and me when we came here. And he was in a show with us, and then eventually, we became his mothers. And it was really Matthew— He was eleven at the time. The first thing we did was a piece called My Dinner With Matthew. And it was a spin-off on the Andre Gregory movie. Matthew and I ate and Claudia served us supper, and we talked about what was life like in Hudson for Matthew. But we got into his issues of growing up here as an African American boy, a special needs kid, he was on PINS [persons in need of supervision] which meant he was in the court system. He eventually ended up dealing drugs, going to jail. He was the portrait of sort of the Hudson kid. And he attached himself to us. So that was how we got a close-up of what Matthew’s life was like and how the schools treated someone like Matthew. And what happened when the mothers and fathers came to the events and sat in a room with the teacher. The kids that came here to eat peanut butter and jelly, some of them had no teeth, or they were rotten. I’d never seen this before. It’s called bottle rot - where mothers give their babies juice and they lay with the bottle all day. I never saw such poverty as here. It is the Northern Appalachia. And a lot of the poverty has been pushed out, squeezed out, but Columbia County is really poor and there’s a lot of needs here. So I always thought it was the portrait of America.

And what a better place to have an arts space, in the middle of this environment which has three shopping alternatives, three drug stores on one corner. The idea of community is so lost here.

BRUCE: We had a neighbor over here - actually, Maija bought his house. He was an ex-police officer. And he would come by. He finally, worked up the nerve and we got to know him. And he came into my office one day and said, “Claudia, I want you to write down everything Linda does and what she’s done.” He said, “Don’t tell her. Don’t tell her this,” he said. “I’ll tell you later what it’s about. Everything she’s done since she’s been here.” Because he would watch us and see. So I got a list together. He is a Mason. And it was through him that Linda was nominated for the highest award that the Masons give if you’re not a Mason. It’s the DeWitt Clinton Masonic Award for Community Service. Linda was given that award pretty early on here when you look at it.

MUSSMANN: I think in ’01 or ’02.

BRUCE: And it was through that award that we managed to get our kids into the Mason camp up in the Adirondacks. It’s a three-hour drive. And we got various kids to go there. So that was yet another opening to this stuff. And when other Masons learn that Linda got that award, they are very impressed. First of all, they don’t give it to women a lot. And it has opened a lot of doors for us in this community. Which is very odd. [laughs]

MUSSMANN: I think, you know, the long and short of this journey is that one thing leads to another thing leads to another thing. And I think if you are living in the moment—and TSL does, truly, live in the moment in all ways; and, specifically, financially is number one—that the moment, if you’re really there and you’re actually listening and awake, you can actually keep moving and taking the sort of basic idea of TSL and keeping it alive. Did I ever think we’d be doing the opera, Metropolitan Opera? No. Does it fit TSL? It fits and it doesn’t fit. And that’s why it works. You know, the whole idea of Time & Space Limited Theater Company is such a big idea, and it can hold so many ideas within it.

BRUCE: But it also means we’re light on our feet so we can move quickly when things come along.

LINDEN: Let’s talk a little bit more about content. Content and context, I guess. Just this question of experimental or avant-garde theater production in a place like this; how you build an audience for that. You know, if you’ve felt like you’ve— not made concessions, but how— Not concessions at all, but how, you know, wanting to build an audience and engage people has informed what you’ve decided to put on here, you know, and how it’s informed your practice. How many people came to see Dinner With Matthew?

MUSSMANN: Well, I would say the— I don’t know, what did we do it, four times?

BRUCE: Well, over time, more than that.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. Maybe we did it a dozen times. It was probably one of the most successful things we did. And the reason is because it engaged the community. And the avant-garde crowd, the theater people, as well as the sort of curious, Matthew’s relatives, family, neighbors, et cetera. So in that sense, that was extremely successful. Some of our more difficult works pulls in only a handful of people; it’s not vast audiences.

BRUCE: Kind of reminds me of New York.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. But it’s always been that way. And I don’t really expect it to be different.

BRUCE: And then we did our take on Alice in Wonderland. We had a young woman, an eleven-year-old, do the lead. We had lots of interest.

MUSSMANN: It sort of depends on the piece. I did a piece on Moby Dick. People were interested in Melville; they showed up.

BRUCE: That’s right.

MUSSMANN: If I’d give it a name that they can hang their hat on.

BRUCE: I mean, like Silhouettes and Souvenirs, what the heck is that? Avoidance and Peculiar? Are you kidding? I mean, we had very bizarre names. But we have this core group of people who keep coming year after year after year, to see what we’re doing. We’re going to be working on a new one very soon. In the fall, we did a piece with a number of young people, which was quite wonderful. This one, we’re going to be working with one of the local artists. That’s going to be a nice piece to work on.

MUSSMANN: And I think over time, what happens is you— I’ve thought a lot about this. What is the work? The work is always something that you desire to do. And the desire is always burning hot. And the time—sometimes you have a lot, sometimes you don’t have a lot. And that’s the sort of thing that keeps me going. There are a million ideas, but the time frame becomes the challenge. And the acting out of some of those million of ideas. What is important last night is that Claudia and I are here to welcome people in to come to see The Habit of Art. Why is it important? I could give that job to someone else. But the fact is the consistency of passion and the consistency of paying attention to all things developing around TSL, or that TSL does, is key to the sort of spirit of what TSL is about. Why do we pick the movies we do and why do we do what we do? It’s really based on what Claudia and I are genuinely interested in. And how can that be? How can these two avant-garde-crazed women be so interested in the opera or this or a painting or that text?  Because in reality, that’s who we are. We’ve spent a lot of time in New York going and seeing and looking and hunting. I saw my first Bergman movie when I was nineteen, in Indiana, in an auditorium in Purdue University. And I said, “I know that. I know this.” How did I know that? How do you know that at nineteen, in the middle of nowhere?

BRUCE: Because you’re a Lutheran. [laughs]

MUSSMANN: Well, I get the Lutheran thing, yeah. But the point is, you know. Your knowing is only a thing that can be expanded. So it becomes this really wonderful idea. Yeah, I would love to sit in a room and write and write and write, and I’d love to have a month to just do nothing but rehearse.


MUSSMANN: But I think that is over. That can’t happen again, because I’m not thirty-one. And I have a huge building. Claudia and I have a big organization. And people work for us. So is it realistic that we can go sit in a room and be artists? I don’t know. Unless somebody’s going to bestow upon us a huge dowry. [laughs]

BRUCE: I always think it would be interesting to know what that would be. Because we do what I call “chamber pieces” every year. It would be like such a gift, to be able to be given that time, because I know that what we’ve got inside us is still there and still needs to be expressed. And these chamber pieces, to me, are just taking a part of that idea. It’s like a little bud on a tree. It’s that part of it.

MUSSMANN: Yeah, in many ways, I would—

BRUCE: And there’s this part of it, and there’s this part of it. And I’d like to see the whole tree, you know, like in full bloom. Without the pollen. [laughs]

MUSSMANN: Yeah, I think Claudia’s right. After twenty years of working - a whole show, having the opportunity to do a whole show would be pretty amazing because of all the things we’ve gone through.

BRUCE: Oh, yeah.

MUSSMANN: Three campaigns alone is almost enough to kill you. Fighting for things like social issues, which we’ve done a lot. And there are a lot of things that have gone on that I’ve not really been able to, as an artist, get out - to say, This is what it is. Because it’s all within these walls and it’s all whirling around. We are known as entrepreneurs and businesswomen; we’re not always known as artists. So it’s a sort of an irony and happens to most American artists who acquire buildings and real estate.

BRUCE: But what I think people can not figure out about us is how we keep having fun. And how, no matter the struggles we go through and the opposition that is put in our way, how Linda and I can just sit and have fun. People want to be around that. Particularly around Linda, because she has fun. I mean, she can find fun anywhere.

LINDEN: You don’t have as much fun?

BRUCE: I do, but you know.

MUSSMANN: Well, look, I have fun cutting the grass. I have fun working hard. I love to work. I think is a very difficult idea.

BRUCE: I can’t— She knows I can’t sit still.


BRUCE: I can’t sit still.

MUSSMANN: Claudia’s obsessed with working. Without Claudia’s graphic designs, we would not have TSL looking so great. I think Claudia’s really one of the greatest performers that I’ve ever seen. And I’d like to have that opportunity to see her onstage again. We’ll see.

LINDEN: How long has it been since you’ve—

BRUCE: Performed?

LINDEN: Performed.

MUSSMANN: Full out? You did some stuff last year.

BRUCE: Yeah.

MUSSMANN: We’re doing a new piece. We just haven’t figured out what it’s going to be.

BRUCE: Yeah, I hope we have the time to do it. Linda has a little more stamina than I do, at this point. And because of the constraints of getting out a monthly calendar, writing the grants, keeping an eye on the finances, I have to be smart with where I put my energy,

LINDEN: You do the calendar, as well?

BRUCE: Oh, yeah.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. That’s three days. I’ve been watching.

BRUCE: Linda looks up the movies and stuff. I put it together. It’s fairly formulaic, at this point, but  still, I have to give myself a certain amount of time. We do the bulk mailing. Our volunteers come in once a month, have a great time doing that. But there’s a lot detail work that I do every day that keeps the place running.

LINDEN: Working together collaboratively, have you had conflicts? Or have there been points in time where you feel like you’ve had to work out any kind of tension about authorship and how you share that together with this project, your life project?

BRUCE: I don’t think so.


MUSSMANN: Claudia agrees with me all the time.

BRUCE: You see? It’s easy. Then you get your way. [laughs] She just doesn’t know it[?].

MUSSMANN: I write something…

BRUCE: And I edit.

MUSSMANN: …and Claudia re-writes it. And I don’t ever say, Oh, my God, this is—

BRUCE: No, I edit. I’m a very good editor for Linda, because I learned to hear her voice. Linda hears— she hears her language. And I have learned, over the years, how to just give it a little tune-up. I’m a good editor for Linda’s work. [they laugh] She’ll say, “Well, you left that out!” I say, “Well, it doesn’t work.” “Okay.”

MUSSMANN: Yeah. Yeah, I really don’t care. You know, the eraser is a good thing. Generally, I do too much. I have too many ideas, there’s too much. I always say take my ideas, steal them. I’ve got more, more, more. I look at some of the Metropolitan Operas, I’m going, Oh, yeah; I did that twenty-five years ago. You know, The Nose, The Shadow, all the stuff, the latest opera.

BRUCE: Writing on the Wall. The swinging light in Macbeth.

MUSSMANN: Swinging light bulbs.Oh, yeah. Done it.

BRUCE: You know? It’s like you can see how the Met has finally taken the ideas that many avant-garde artists worked on downtown in that era, and now they’re hitting the stage of the Met. It’s lots of fun to watch it evolve.

MUSSMANN: There are just endless ideas and energy that keep coming and coming and coming. I’ve written all this stuff; nobody’s ever published it. I’ve done all these things. I don’t have time to sit there and say - Oh, this needs this - there’s just too much. There’s too much to do. It’s almost flying forward, tumbling over myself.

LINDEN: Time is limited.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. Whatever Claudia wants to do with my work, if she wants to rewrite it or re-think it over, it doesn’t matter; the basic stuff is there. Yeah, it doesn’t really matter. We don’t fight over stuff. Or who’s who and what’s what.I don’t even have a bank account.

BRUCE: Yes, she does. We have a joint bank account.

MUSSMANN: But she has. I don’t see it.

BRUCE: It’s a good thing.

MUSSMANN: I don’t know where it goes, what it does. Because if I did, I’d spend it, you know? Let’s get rid of it.

LINDEN: You mentioned a few people you’ve worked with here. Is there anybody else you’d like to talk about, who’s worked for you or with you in this space since you’ve been in Hudson?

MUSSMANN: Been in Hudson?

BRUCE: There are a lot of people.

MUSSMANN: Maija Reed has done a lot with the kids. Hannah Jarrell did a lot to help us. A number of years ago, a young intern/graduate from Texas worked with us for a few years.

BRUCE: Connie Fitzmaurice.

MUSSMANN: Connie, our ultimate volunteer. Anya’s new and has bailed us out of the opera nightmare.

BRUCE: Michael Chameides has been here for years now.

MUSSMANN: I met Michael through one of my campaigns. It was interesting. I met him through the political campaigns, and then he ended up working with us. And that was a huge help to us. He’s a technically skilled person. He’s also a good artist.

BRUCE: Karen Keats is a professional photographer and does most of the photos and documentation. Over the years, we have worked with artists, writers, poets, musicians, and everybody in between.

LINDEN: Have most of these people been— Or you know, in specific cases, have these been people who came here to work with you? Or people who are in Hudson already and discover what you’re doing and become involved?

MUSSMANN: Hannah came here; she wanted to be here. She graduated and wanted to be with us. I don’t know how she found us.

BRUCE: Through one of her teachers in Texas.

MUSSMANN: Yeah, I think it was through some feminist stuff.

BRUCE: Her teacher wrote you and she said, “I think I’ve got the intern for you.”

MUSSMANN: Karen knew similar people in New York. I met her at the train station, and we got into a conversation and she ended up being here. Michael came through the campaign. Anya walked in the door and stood there and asked for a job, and I said I didn’t have one.

BRUCE: Maija came through a friend of ours.

MUSSMANN: It’s hard to attract people to Hudson, because there’s no economic security. If TSL had more money, it would make a difference. Because it’s hard to find people without some sort of cash. If we were doing more theater repertory, where I was bringing people in and we were doing a project, I think I would have more people hanging out here. TSL doesn’t have enough art energy to bring that off. If I had a company which was rotating, that would help us. And I’ve thought about it, I just don’t know how to squeeze it out - time-wise.

BRUCE: That’s the other thing [inaudible], the time is crazy.

MUSSMANN: How do you find the time? Because theater is so labor intense. That is the nightmare of it.

BRUCE: We used to rehearse from 10am to 2pm every day and we would do a show at night. You can’t find three people who can work ten to two anymore, because everybody’s got ten jobs. Or they’re trying to subsist. The other thing about the country that we found out is there are some generous people here who have helped sustain us over time. Our friend Hedwig Rappolt helped get us going - long, long gone. Hedwig was an older woman. There are  people in the community like Judy Grunberg, who is incredibly generous. There are people who really want to see what we are doing. A lot of opera people who are very supportive. The movie people, the youth— people who really want young people to have programs. So it’s been an interesting place to be.

LINDEN: What of the— You mentioned rotten tomatoes…literally, but what have some of the other really difficult conflicts been?

MUSSMANN: Our activism works for us hot and cold. Sometimes it has enhanced TSL, and sometimes it has given people a negative feeling  - Oh, those are the people that are against the plant or, those are the people who are Democrats and they have this attitude. And so in a small community, speaking out taints somebody’s feeling of us. I’ve been a constant critic of the school. It makes the school feel distasteful toward us. And because they can’t take the criticism, they take it personally. It’s hard. So sometimes that keeps the school from being more involved with TSL. Or people will not give money based on a political stand that we’re taken. My last campaign as mayor was highly controversial, because people felt I should not have run. I was the third party spoiler. And people directed a lot of hostility toward TSL because of me personally. Which is a hard thing to put up with. Or to withstand. And, financially and emotionally, is very hurtful. It is a free country. But a small community can be a very vicious place. And visciousness becomes tiring. You speak out against drugs, you piss the police off. Having the police mad at you in a small community is not a very comfortable thought. [laughs] Sometimes it takes awhile for people to understand what doing the right thing means.

BRUCE: Over time, though, I think people have grown to understand how we’re here. We’re here to stay. And basically, we’ve been pretty consistent in our stands on things. And how we truly are interested in bringing the community along, instead of just being here for ourselves. As Linda says, if you lift all the boats, if you lift the boats in the bottom, all the boats lift, so we can all sail along a little bit more comfortably. Yeah.

MUSSMANN: I mean, we’ve stood up for poor people, we’ve stood up for a lot of things that are not popular ideas, when ultimately, things are driven by real estate, the cost of real estate. Sort of: is it going to make my house worth more? And generally, Claudia and I try to do the right thing. And that can be a long discussion. You know, money is always the crush. We’re always scrambling to pay the bills, and that’s tiring. It’s tiring. When we came here, we really wanted to figure out how could we create a grassroots idea to filter into how we ran TSL?

Actually, the box office, the money that comes through the door, what does that mean to the organization? What does that mean, to live year after year on the edge? And the edge shifts. Sometimes the years are better than others. And the last couple have been really tough because of the economy. And it’s going to be a great time of sorting out. Somebody’s going to fall. And that’s not going to be us. And how do you do that? And part of it is, Claudia and I really think about TSL. If we can’t figure out how to do everything and survive, we don’t go past that point. We don’t take on too much, so that we are out there, way out, and we’re stuck in a place we can’t bail out. So the bailout is very important part. How do we protect TSL and keep it going? Tricky.

LINDEN: Time, as always, is limited today, so we might think about wrapping up the recorded conversation. I think as a last question, I might just ask if there’s one particular project you’d like to talk about, either that you’re working on now, just to give a kind of snapshot of the moment, or otherwise, one other project besides Dinner With Matthew, which you think is exemplary in terms of the way it’s functioned for an intersection between, you know, your practice and your interest in the avant-garde, and the way that it’s engaged the community here.

BRUCE: Mao Wow!, we brought in a bunch of people. We did that a couple of times. That was a good theater piece. We had two companies for that, two separate ones, where we used young people. Linda managed to figure out how to use young performers and like a dance—

MUSSMANN: Two teenagers.

BRUCE: Two teenagers and a dancer and me, in a show that was  quite complex.

MUSSMANN: The play was great. I think those pieces were really good because I developed the work with community kids, with Claudia. And then we brought the outside artists in, and it was a good collaboration. We did that with Alice, we did it with Fast Food, which was also a really good piece.

BRUCE: Yeah, that was.

MUSSMANN: That was fast food, Dunkin Donuts - the culture of Hudson and the culture of kids. And we did some interviews. I had kids interview—

BRUCE: Video interviews we used in the show.

MUSSMANN:  . . .most kids, it’s their first job, which I didn’t know. So they were very involved with the selling of hamburgers and stuff, so that was part of the interviews. Then they were in it. And Claudia was, again, the central character. And using Claudia as the center and then placing people around her is a pretty good way of working here. And engaging the community. And those pieces are really good. I’m going to try to do another one.

BRUCE: And then we just did one in the fall we called Nine + 3, which was actually three middle school young women and three high schoolers, and then there were three of us on the side, including Linda. Linda placed it on a grid. So that’s how we controlled them physically, how to move from grid to grid, from box to box and stuff. And it was Linda’s words and they had no problem with them.

MUSSMANN: I kind of wrote every day on that one, gave them their pieces, and they were like little…

BRUCE:  . . . just little sponges.

MUSSMANN: …sponges. They really…

BRUCE: They just sucked it up.

MUSSMANN: …totally got it. And the little ones, the little tiny ones had already memorized the big ones’ lines, so they could immediately step in and take things on you didn’t think that they knew.

LINDEN: How do you choose what young people are involved? Do you make a call for auditions? Or is it just people who come to you?

MUSSMANN: The kids come around. These kids had been around TSL, they had—

BRUCE: Worked with Maija. Maija had asked if they would be interested.

MUSSMANN: They had been in another show we did.

BRUCE: Yeah.

MUSSMANN: What was the name of that show?

BRUCE: Her Story.

MUSSMANN: It was Claudia and Berta and Todd. So I had three adult performers, a musician—

LINDEN: Do you mind just putting in last names?

MUSSMANN: Berta Leone, Tadd Gero, who passed away, and…

BRUCE: Stephen Iachetta.

MUSSMANN: … Stephen Iachetta, who’s also a planner for Albany Airport. He’s a really great fiddle player. Berta had put a piece of art in the back room. And she’s from South Carolina. A wonderful sense of humor. A perfect character for my work.

BRUCE: West Virginia, wasn’t she?

MUSSMANN: Well, this is where we argue.

BRUCE: Oh, I know.

MUSSMANN: Place. West Virginia, South Carolina.

BRUCE: And Ashley Price was one of the kids who grew up through our youth projects. And Damaris Shakespeare, and then Jennifer Lopez come in— Yeah, Damaris had to leave one weekend, and Linda asked the audience if there was anybody there who wanted to take a part, and little Jennifer held up her hand and said, “I’ll do it.” So within a day, Jennifer joined the cast — [laughs] She had watched. And that’s kind of how it goes here. The formality of this rehearsal period is shot. Those days are gone. It’s really catch as catch can. And so Linda and I feel like New York was our practice. All those hours of drill, drill; get it right, get it right. Now we’ve got to [snaps fingers] catch the moment and do it on the fly. That’s what you do.

MUSSMANN: But in Her Story, that— And I also had Zack. What’s Zack’s last name?

BRUCE: Kerwin.

MUSSMANN: Yeah. Zack Kerwin did some portraits of women, which I hung all over. And Hillary was running at the time and I was getting ticked off about all this feminist stuff and thought, well, we’d do some female stories.

BRUCE: Zack did a whole bunch of portraits like this. And we had, like, Sacagawea and Sigourney Truth. Anyway, there were a whole bunch of— Madame Curie and other women.

MUSSMANN: So anyway, I constructed areas. And one of the areas for the little kids, one was a sandbox with soldiers, so they could create little armies and positions - talking about Iraq, subconsciously. Another zone was where the kids played with Tinkertoys. And then they would have conversations. And the whole text was going on over these zones.

[Plumber comes in to get key for basement]

BRUCE: Now that I’ve got the big key. [comments with plumber about keys]

MUSSMANN: Plumber trumps art. [laughs]

LINDEN: Plumber trumps art. That might be a good way to end.

MUSSMANN: Plumber trumps art. [Linden laughs] Anyway, it’s what it is.

LINDEN: Any closing comments, Linda? Okay.


LINDEN: Thank you so much.

MUSSMANN: It’s such a nightmare. Daymare.

LINDEN: Daymare.

MUSSMANN: If there’s nightmares, there must be daymares.

LINDEN: We’ll stop there.