Sunday, March 6, 2011

Guest Blogger of the Week: Judith Malina


We would like to thank David J. Diamond for blogging for us last week. 

We are really excited to announce our next guest blogger, the legendary Judith Malina.

Malina founded The Living Theatre with husband Julian Beck in 1947 as an alternative to commercial theatre. Based in a variety of small New York locations which were frequently closed due to financial problems or conflicts with city authorities, they helped to establish Off-Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway as significant forces in U.S. theatre.

In the 1950s, the group was among the first in the nation to promote such international dramatists as Bertolt Brecht, Jean Cocteau, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Luigi Pirandello. Additionally, the Living Theatre took the unconventional step of performing the work of modernist poets, including T. S. Eliot, Paul Goodman, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams. Their work during this period shared some aspects of style and content with Beat generation writers.

The Brig (1963), an anti-authoritarian look at conditions in a Marine prison, was their last major Living Theatre production in New York before a disagreement with the IRS led to the closure of the theatre space and even the brief imprisonment of Beck and Malina. During the 1960s, the group toured chiefly in Europe, and turned to even more politically and formally radical work carrying an anarchist and pacifist message, with the company members creating plays collectively and often living together. Major works from this period included adaptations of Antigone, Frankenstein and Paradise Now, which became their best-known play. Paradise, a semi-improvisational piece involving audience participation, was notorious for a scene in which actors recited a list of social taboos that included nudity, while themselves disrobing. leading to multiple arrests for indecent exposure.

Having returned to the U.S. in 1968 to tour Paradise, the group broke apart the next year. Malina and Beck toured with the remaining members in Brazil, where they were imprisoned in 1971, then returned to New York to form a new version of the group. Though Beck passed away in 1985 after a two-year battle with stomach cancer, The Living Theatre has staged nearly 100 productions performed in 8 languages in 28 countries on 5 continents - a unique body of work that has influenced theater the world over.

In 2008, Malina received the Artistic Achievement Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. This honor was presented to Malina by Olympia Dukakis on behalf of her peers and fellow artists of the Off-Off-Broadway community "in recognition of her unabashed pioneering spirit and unyielding dedication to her craft and the Off-Off-Broadway community".


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