Great Lives

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Great Lives[1]
Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Arthur Miller, Ryan Cutrona, Tim Jerome, Julie Renick, Nick Ullett, Joe Frank
Improv Actors, Absurd Monologue, Panel Discussion, 59 minutes
Preceded by: Bad
Followed by: Great Lives (Remix)

"Well of course, Stalin was a very amusing man."

Great Lives is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1989.


The sound of a train, coming to a stop.

A man (Arthur Miller), says that Stalin was very amusing with a 'light, fey sense of humor' and more unlikely stories about him.

2:10: Joe asks the man about his claim that Hitler was a woman, which he affirms, then tells other unlikely stories about him.

4:40: A man (Ryan Cutrona) tells about the things he has been (holy, evil, rich, very wealthy…), then the places he has been (Indianapolis, Korea, Venezuela, Baton Rouge, the Moon). Then he says some things he wants to talk about - but doesn't.

5:40: A man (Tim Jerome?) talks about confusion, then god, then watching a woman doing something she should or shouldn't through a window, whether or not you are doing what you should.

8:40: Train sounds.

9:00: Joe talks to a man (Arthur Miller) who taught at Princeton, knew Einstein, tells unlikely stories about him, including Einstein's affair with Marilyn Monroe.

11:30: A man (Ryan Cutrona) tells all the things he's seen god in.

13:40: A man (Tim Jerome) tells unlikely stories about Sigmund Freud.

15:50: Joe asks a man (Arthur Miller) about Picasso's relationship with Gertrude Stein, allegedly an explosive affair.

18:50: A woman[1] talks about songs Marlene Dietrich sang.[2]

22:00: A man (Arthur Miller) tells about attending a costume party in New York City dressed as Marlene Dietrich did for The Blue Angel, where he meets her and has a relationship with her when she was in her 50s.[3]

26:50: A man (Ryan Cutrona) tells about Hitler's life as a little girl, goes on about why we haven't been told Hitler was a woman.

28:30: A man (Nick Ullett?) talks about Costa Frangapelli's[4] studies of the flow of time, that no reality could exist without time stopping. Man #2 (Arthur Miller) says that music exists in time. Man #3 (fake German accent - Tim Jerome?) says that we have to understand silence to understand music.[5]

30:20: This panel talks about beauty.[5]

31:50: The panel returns to talking about music and silence, then that we are terrified by unbounded things.[5]

34:30: A man tells about when he was in Amsterdam, looking for death. A woman asks him why he didn't kill himself. A panel (Arthur Miller and Tim Jerome?) talk about death and shaving.

36:40: A man repeats 'no' forcefully, a woman tries to get him to do it; he says he can't, pleads that she not make him do it. They don't tell us what 'it' is.

37:50: The woman moans along with a jazz saxophone.

38:30: A man tells us about trouble he has falling asleep. Others talk about how you know whether you're asleep or awake. There's a party in the background.

39:20: A man yawns and eructates; a woman laughs.

40:20: The panel talks about what nothing is; one dreamed that he was in a coffin.

41:50: A woman makes some noises.

42:00: Joe asks if time is linear or circular. The panel responds, not agreeing with each other.[5]

46:20: The panel talks about time more.[5]

48:30: Joe says that Spinoza thought that a stone that was set in motion would think it was moving of its own wish, asks if people believe they're free when they're not. The panel discusses. They imagine stones writing up their experiences, publishing a journal.[5]

53:40: A man (Ryan Cutrona) talks about when he lived in Vienna and hung out at cafés with Freud, often saw Stalin, then Einstein and Marilyn Monroe; Picasso drew portraits on the street. He claims Eleanor Roosevelt turned his life around.

56:20: A woman (Julie Renick) sings 'You do something to me' in a fake German accent, impersonating Marlene Dietrich.

Legacy Synopsis

The jovial side of Stalin. Hitler was a woman. Old man monologue- "I have been;" speaking about astronauts, cashew nuts, engineering. Confusion is created by god - trying to stop a woman from doing something she should not be doing. Einstein the bitter wash up, an obsession with going backwards, dating Marilyn Monroe. Old man (Ryan Cutrona) "I've seen god" in household objects monologue. Freud was in it to meet women. Picasso dates Gertrude Stein. Picasso as the link between modern art and contemporary marketing. Description of the young Marlene Dietrich. Discussion of an affair with the "multi-sexual" Dietrich who falls for a statue, becomes obsessed with going backwards, has an affair with Sammy Davis Junior. Old man: Hitler was a woman. Panel discussion: music as reality, the book "sound and nonsense," measuring beauty as ship-launching potential, traveling and looking for death, the face in the mirror. Drum solo. Panicked man begs "don't make me do it" accompanied by a bizarre moaning soundtrack. Panel discussion: falling asleep while falling asleep. A man moans and strains while a woman giggles, being buried alive. A woman moans. Panel discussion: the nature of time, life as a series of experiments, Spinoza's stones in motion. Old man: being in a cafe full of famous people. Woman singing show tunes, coached by Joe.


This is an incomplete record of the music in this program. If you can add more information, please do.

Shared material

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "With Arthur Miller, Ryan Cutrona, Tim Jerome, Julie Renick, and Joe Frank. This program was recorded at Westrax Recording Studios in New York City and at KCRW in Santa Monica."

The version released by JoeFrankTheater on YouTube on 2021 August 22 includes Nick Ullett in the cast.


Most of the panel segments are also in 'Case studies'. They sound of a piece; I speculate that they were recorded at the same time, that Joe didn't use all of them in 1986 ('Case studies').Arthur Peabody (talk) 17:59, 23 August 2021 (EDT)

Thanks to people in the German subreddit for help identifying the 2 Marlene Dietrich songs mentioned at 19 minutes; one said her voice is authentically German.Arthur Peabody (talk) 17:59, 23 August 2021 (EDT)


  1. German accent, real according to a correspondent on Reddit - I don't think it's Julie Renick, the only woman mentioned in the cast
  2. The first song is 'Ach, Fräulein Annie wohnt schon lang nicht hier', 'Annie doesn't live here anymore'; the second song is 'Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte', 'If I could wish for something'. Dietrich sang both.
  3. She was born in 1901.
  4. fictional, I'm pretty sure
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 originally in Case Studies