For most of the 80s Carmela Rago lived a double life. By day she worked as the director of communications for a large insurance association, while at night (and on weekends) she performed her witty, quirky solo pieces around the country, at such places as N.A.M.E. Gallery, P.S. 122, and the Washington Project for the Arts. Eventually the long hours, the rampant corporate sexism, and having zero personal life became too much for her, and she dropped out–for three years, she gave up performing entirely. When she returned to it last fall, her work had changed. it seemed more honest, more grounded in reality, and sadder. Carmela Rago has always been adept at creating eccentric characters who both move and amuse us with their foibles and compulsions–in a piece from the early 80s, for example, she played a woman whose compulsive shoe buying was an expression of her grief over a ruined marriage–but her recent work also includes autobiographical sections for the first time, including a reminiscence about her father, poet and Poetry magazine editor Henry Rago, who died when she was still a teenager. Her work is richer for it. Beacon Street Gallery and Theatre, March 13 and 14 (4520 N. Beacon, 784-2310. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM. $5.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Debra E. Levine.