The head of the Judson Poets Theater, Al Carmines, also wrote the music for many of the Poets Theater's productions, beginning with George Dennison's Vaudeville Skit. (JD37) Carmines later explained his musical style: "I like everything from Beethoven to Purcell to Schoenberg to John Cage to Richard Rodgers to gospel songs. A line from the text will suddenly suggest something operatic, or Spanish, or ragtime, and I do it in that style." (SB75)
Previous to the Poets' Theater, the Judson Church had initiated a theater program under the name of Judson Studio Players who put on Goethe's Faust in May 1959 and then (under the name of Judson Gallery Players) presented William Packard's original play In the First Place which premiered on March 23, 1961.
The first production of the Judson Poets' Theater, in November 1961, was Joel Oppenheimer's play The Great American Desert and an adaptation of Guillaume Apollinaire's The Breasts of Tiresias. (SB67-9) The Great American Desert launched the directorial career of Lawrence Kornfeld who had previously gained experience at The Living Theater's Monday Night Series. (SB71) The budget for the double bill of plays - including sets, lighting, costumes and publicity - was $37.50 - which would be the standard budget for all productions for the next five years. (SB73) Kornfeld received a small salary - $20 a month - as the resident director. (SB73)