Cast Size
6w, 4m


An original stage play inspired by the outsider artist Henry Darger (1892-1973)


             Most people wouldn’t have taken a second look at the hobo with a penchant for rifling through garbage cans, most people would’ve looked the other way. No one gave much thought to the unkempt man with the awkward gait and a church-going habit which saw him attend up to three times a day. The hobo’s name was Henry Darger, a lonely man who left behind a 15,000 page novel and thousands of his own paintings and sketches. Henry Darger is an enigma, a survivor of a childhood marred by violence and isolation and a man who found his purpose, and a place to belong, between the pages of his mythopoeia- The Realms of the Unreal, a fantasy work that became his safe haven. 
             He has inspired the likes of Grayson Perry and has been compared to Lewis Carroll, Andy Warhol, Balthus and Dr. Seuss. HENRY DARGER IS reads like a paean to art, In The Realms of the Unreal Darger made life bearable for himself, art is what saved him.
             The play by Judith Kampfner, accomplished radio producer-writer, interweaves the imagined narratives of Darger’s exterior world with his interior one. Kampfner, using her research, has woven a beautifully lyrical play which looks at this fascinating man , and more universally, examines the way we all create our own stories to shield ourselves from what is often the frightening world outside. The lines between reality and his story are blurred as we are plunged deeper into the murky waters of  Darger’s own fiction The Realms of the Unreal.
             The violence Darger had been exposed to in his life is found translated into the violence expressed in his written world. Soon these two worlds collide with the unlikely introduction of Elsie, a poor immigrant girl who went missing in 1920 and was found murdered. Darger is distraught and does little to deflect attention away from himself as a suspect, such is his inability to understand how he is perceived by others, such is his lack of vanity. He incorporates Elsie into his magnum opus which is replete with female martyrs and here bestows upon her the role of martyr for the children. HENRY DARGER IS explores the inner fantasies of this reclusive artist and the underlying issues behind his controverial, dynamic and often disturbing paintings.
          The play is not only about this profound and fascinating man, but about all outsiders and what it means to live on the periphery, to be unable to enter into a world that is not yours for the taking.


The play has the support and endorsement of Kiyoko Lerner, the Darger Estate holder.

Image courtesy of Kiyoko Lerner.