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Angels of Light Free Theater Commune

The Angels of Light were another vortex of energy that spun off the idea of Free that the Diggers had conjured in 1966. In late 1969, from within the halls of the Sutter Street Commune, the spark was lit that would burn bright as Free Theater. The Sutter Street Commune published Kaliflower (the free inter-communal weekly) and operated the Free Print Shop which printed posters, flyers, booklets, info sheets, artwork, poetry—all for Free, according to the Digger Way.

The announcement of the formation of the new Free Theater troupe was published in the January 8, 1970, issue of Kaliflower and appeared as such:

 
KF announcement of Angels of Light
Announcement of the formation of the Angels of Light with a still image from the film Children of Paradise which inspired Hibiscus to use the name that he chose for the Free Theater troupe. (Kaliflower, vol. I, no. 38, Jan. 8, 1970)
 
Hibiscus, the Sutter Street Commune member whose art and performance would be the spark for Free Theater, also inspired another theater group that would go on to perform "paid" shows. The first Cockettes show was free, but then they become wildly popular as the midnight event at the Palace Theater in North Beach that charged for admission. 

Hibiscus cut his ties to the Cockettes and devoted his energies to the Angels and Free theater instead. He had moved out of Kaliflower and the Angels would form their own commune that would become one of the members of the Free Food Family. This was a group of communes that had decided to pool their food budgets and operate on the basis of "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs."

The Angels of Light shows provided an important contribution to the Free Commune network. Their events were always a place to socialize with members of other communes, everyone part of a tribe of people attempting to live in the underbelly of American society at a time when the U.S./Vietnam War was still raging, at a time when the first bloom of optimism that had graced the early Sixties had been smashed by the realities of assassinations, political harassment, arrests, right-wing reaction and draconian drug laws. The commune movement was a place to find solace from the larger social nightmare. And the Angels of Light shows were full of the mirth and message that harkened back to the impulse to create something new.

 

 

The project in mind for creating this page is to present the Angels of Light in the context of the communal tidal wave spawned by the Digger Free movement in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Many accounts of the Angels focus on their theater as part of the emerging liberated gay consciousness, representing (along with the Cockettes) the first gender bending social trope (men with beards in drag) that would be taken up in post-structuralist post-modernist discourse among academics and theorists in the coming decades. But that's not the point of this web archive. The Angels of Light formed out of the Sixties counterculture, specifically the Digger wing of that movement, and were integral with the local network of underground communes that formed in response.

A top priority will be to present scans of the Angels of Light posters. They will show the vibrancy of the Angels' message of theater as social performance. The message of Free Theater resonated with one of the phrases the Diggers had used in planning their events: "create the condition you describe." The Angels of Light shows above anything created the condition that the Free network of communes was describing. They created the condition on stage and off, in their public persona as well as their private one.

 

 

 

 

 

 
The idea of creating a page for the Angels of Light has been on my "to-do" list for years. There are hundreds of items on that particular list. I'm grateful to recent inspiration that has brought this project to fruition, even though much remains to be collected and presented here. [7-Dec-2014]  
   

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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The Digger Archives is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Cite As: The Digger Archives (www.diggers.org) / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 / All other uses must receive permission. Contact: curator at diggers dot org.