Lipstick Traces

A Secret History of the 20th Century


Adapted from Greil Marcus’ celebrated book, Lipstick Traces is a free-wheeling, explosive alternative history of the 20th century, filtered through the punk movement. Marcus’ book has been widely acclaimed as not only an unparalleled celebration of the milestone of punk rock, but as one of the great commentaries on 20th century contemporary culture. In The Rude Mechs’ theatrical adaptation, British pop impresario Malcolm McLaren joins forces with a tenacious, if somewhat manic, Dr. Narrator, to revisit those movements in culture that raised no monuments – movements that barely left a trace.  Johnny Rotten’s first audition for the Sex Pistols, a dada evening at the Cabaret Voltaire, and Michel Mourre’s 1950 siege on Notre-Dame are just a few of the spectacles along the way.  In the end, “nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Created By
The Rude Mechs
Written By
Kirk Lynn
Directed By
Shawn Sides
Creative Producer:
Melanie Joseph

2001 : Performed at The Ohio Theater



Conceived and Directed by Shawn Sides
Adapted from Greil Marcus’ eponymous book
Adapted by  Kirk Lynn 
Created by The Rude Mechs

David Greenspan
Lana Lesley
Jason Liebrecht
Ean Sheehy
T. Ryder Smith
James Urbaniak

Lighting Design:  Heather Carson  
Sound Design:  Darron L West
Set Design:  Jim Larkin 
Costume Design:  Rachel Carr
Production Stage Manager:  
  Sarah Richardson
Press Representative: Adrian Bryan-Brown


“The desire this voice embodies is patent and simple. It begins with the demand to live not as an object but as a subject of history — to live as if something actually depended on one’s actions … The story is endemic to the 20th century.  Nihilism pulls the trigger.  But negation assumes other people, calls them on the phone.”  from Lipstick Traces



“all living art must be irrational, primitive and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification but of paradox.”  – Hugo Ball / Dada




“From the delirious, perfectly calibrated slapstick of a pivotal night at the Cabaret Voltaire to a reenactment of Rotten’s Sex Pistols audition, the play mounts a lethal assault on the modern world’s prevailing go-along-to-get-along. … The cast has killer instinct” – Rolling Stone

“These characters were made for theatre … Rude Mechs’ fabulous Lipstick Traces turns theory into theatre, artists and philosophers into performers, and celebrities into less exciting figures – at least for a night — than the actors who play them.
The New York Times (2nd review)

“A visceral charge of liberating anarchy.” 
The New York Times

 A hilarious and unexpectedly haunted compression of Marcus’ cult tome.   The Village Voice

“A witty, rip-roaring, mad 75 minutes of theater.” NY Post


On Tour

August, 2002

On The Boards, Seattle

Sept, 2002

UCLA Live, Los Angeles
3 week run