Choreography / 1952

Theater Piece No. 1

In the summer of 1952, John Cage organized a collaborative theater event in the dining hall at Black Mountain College. The performance, which later came to be known as “Theater Piece No. 1,” is widely regarded as the first Happening. Accounts of the event vary. According to Cunningham, “David Tudor played the piano, M.C. Richards and Charles Olson read poetry, Robert Rauschenberg’s white paintings were on the ceiling, Rauschenberg himself played records, and Cage talked. I danced…The audience was seated in the middle of the playing area, facing each other, the chairs were arranged on diagonals, and the spectators unable to see directly everything that was happening. There was a dog which chased me around the space as I danced. Nothing was intended to be other than it was, a complexity of events that the spectators could deal with as each chose.” Cage structured the activity using time brackets arrived at by chance methods.


Premiere Date

Aug 16, 1952

Premiere Venue

Black Mountain College

Premiere Location

Black Mountain, NC


45 minutes (est.)

Original Cast

John Cage

Nicola Cernovich

Merce Cunningham

Charles Olson

Robert Rauschenberg

M.C. Richards

David Tudor

Other Choreography

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Year: 1947
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Year: 1947
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Year: 1948
Collab.: Cage
Ruse of Medusa, The
Duration: Length unknown
Year: 1948
Collab.: Satie, de Kooning, Outten, Lanier, Johns, Fuller, Johnson, Wright, Asawa, Spillenger
Monkey Dances, [The]
Duration: Length unknown
Year: 1948
Collab.: Satie, Outten, Lippold
Duration: Length unknown
Year: 1948
Collab.: Cage
Diversion, A
Duration: 8 minutes (est.)
Year: 1948
Collab.: Cage, Outten
Duration: 6 minutes (est.)
Year: 1949
Collab.: Cage