Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Living Theatre

Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov Nov 18 2006

On November 18th, Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov of The Living Theatre were guest speakers at The Club at La MaMa Etc as part of the Coffeehouse Chronicles of various speakers celebrating LaMaMa’s 45th Anniversary. Malina along with Julian Beck founded the Living Theatre in 1947. Now, in 2006 The Living Theatre has signed a ten-year lease on Clinton Street on The Lower East Side, one block from where I lived until recently. Judith commented with a smile that some people think she is crazy to sign a ten year lease at the age of 80 but why not.

The Living Theatre has staged more than 80 productions performed in eight languages in 25 countries on four continents.

The place was packed. The history is immense, and a look at the website will provide a full history. Here are some highlights I noted: Each play was a new attempt to include the audience in some way. Early on, Judith spent jail time with Dorothy Day whom she admired. Julian Beck was an abstract expressionist painter who designed the stage the same way he painted a canvas. Living Theatre members are pacifists and most are vegetarians, living their pacifist beliefs. The Living Theatre was part of an artistic community with an ongoing interplay between all the arts. They all engaged in supporting each other, including the visual arts, performing arts, music, jazz, poetry, and literature. The audience was their fellow artists and they were aware of important culture changes happening and they were part of it, living it, creating it. In 1961, they were the first American Theatre invited to the International World Festival. They had no money to go abroad but auctioned some paintings donated by de Kooning, Rauschenberg and others. Hanon commented with a wry smile, “If we had only kept just one painting.” Judith’s direction of “The Brig” by Kenneth H Brown in 1963 is still relevant today and will be the opening play at their new space. In Brazil, they were arrested and the Brazilian artists were tortured.

The Living Theatre is one of the reasons to love New York. I remember Al Pacino saying at an Actors Studio rehearsal that watching The Living Theatre was the most “present” experience he ever had in the theatre. Many actors have worked with The Living Theatre. When asked how actors audition to be part of the ensemble Judith smiled and said if you are meant to be a member you will find a way. Right now, their work "No Sir" right in Times Square at the US Army's Recruiting Station is the best theatre on Broadway!!

Judith and Hanon graciously posed for me for my travel blog. You can go to The Living Theatre’s website: http://www.livingtheatre.org to read more and to check out photos.

Their Mission Statement is worth the click...here is an excerpt:

To call into question
who we are
to each other
in the social environment of
the theater,
to fire the body’s secret engines,

to insist that what happens in the jails matters,

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