"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."

Welcome to Infoshop News
Monday, November 24 2014 @ 08:57 AM CST

Underground Veteran, Judith Malina, Resurfaces in a Basement

News Archive“I’ve always felt I belonged on the Lower East Side,” the 80-year-old avant-garde theater doyenne Judith Malina said recently as she sat on the terrace of her new apartment on Clinton Street. Several floors below, a half-dozen volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the 100-seat basement space that is the newest incarnation of her baby, the Living Theater. The opening night of “The Brig,” the first show there, was just hours away, but Ms. Malina made time to reminisce. May 5, 2007

Underground Veteran Resurfaces in a Basement

By MELENA RYZIK
NY Times

“I’ve always felt I belonged on the Lower East Side,” the
80-year-old avant-garde theater doyenne Judith Malina said recently as she sat on
the terrace of her new apartment on Clinton Street. Several floors
below, a half-dozen volunteers were putting the finishing touches on
the 100-seat basement space that is the newest incarnation of her baby, the
Living Theater. The opening night of “The Brig,” the first show
there, was just hours away, but Ms. Malina made time to reminisce.

“The only time I lived down here,” she said, “was when I spent 30
days in the Women’s House of Detention.” That incarceration, for
refusing to take shelter during an air-raid drill in 1957, was the second of many
in a career that made her a pillar of the leftist cultural movement. Now,
she said, “I really feel, finally, I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

And it took only a half-century. In 1947 Ms. Malina and her husband,
the painter Julian Beck (she still refers to him by his full name,
guru-like, though they were married for nearly 40 years), founded the
Living Theater, an ensemble dedicated to challenging artistic and
political conventions. For two decades they performed avant-garde and
activist classics (Gertrude Stein, Lorca, Brecht) and naturalistic
quasi-happenings. Audience interaction was the point, and
confrontations, nudity, onstage and offstage sex and frequent police
intervention were as much the marks of a good show as an ovation. (Ms.
Malina, trained as an actress, did much of her best work with her
arresting officers, she said.)

But the company was plagued with administrative and logistical
problems. In 1963 its 14th Street theater was closed mid-run for tax evasion.
Though the charge was eventually dropped, the couple’s antics at the
trial, which they treated as an opportunity for anarchist performance,
earned them a jail sentence for contempt of court.

The hoopla made them a cause c(c)l(r)bre but was not enough to keep them
in New York. They continued to perform and teach, in various rented and
public spaces in the United States and in Europe, but the theater has
not had a dedicated building in New York for nearly 15 years.

The cheerful, modernist new Living Theater (the building was originally
meant to be a hip restaurant, complete with two-story waterfall) seems
at home among the neighborhood’s boutiques and bistros. And so, in a
way, does its owner.

With witchy dyed black hair (she played the grandmother in the first
“Addams Family” movie), ’60s-heavy eyeliner, a flowy black and
orange pantsuit, black sneakers and big jewelry, Ms. Malina looks younger than
her age. Her partner, Hanon Reznikov, 56, brought her a cup of coffee,
though she hardly needed it. Sitting with one leg tucked under her, she
frequently seemed moved enough by her own passion to nearly rock right
out of her lawn chair.

“I just need to find sources for all the energy I get from what I see
and hear around me,” she said. “I’m very inspired by the younger
generation today. They understand, for instance, the balance between
art and politics in a way that we had to struggle to understand it. I think
it’s a good time for political theater.”

And does she still consider herself an anarchist or a pacifist or ...?

“Still?” Ms. Malina said. “I’m just beginning! Still!?” She
harrumphed and continued: “Each day starts with, ‘How much can I do today to
get toward that B.N.V.A.R.’? You know what a B.N.V.A.R. is? It’s the
beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution. That’s what we work for
every day.”

The focus of the Living Theater has changed little since the days when
B.N.V.A.R. might have been a household phrase. “As long as you hear
the outcry of the needy, how can you not respond?” Ms. Malina asked.
“If I was a shoemaker, I’d try to figure out how everybody could have
shoes, but I’m an artist and I want to convey hope in a difficult
situation.”

Her method today is the same as it was then: “The Brig,” Kenneth H.
Brown’s stark drama about a military prison, was one of the Living
Theater’s most successful works when it was first staged in 1963.
Given the play’s resonance with news about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, it
seemed a natural choice for the inaugural production in the new space,
said Ms. Malina, who directed.

“I thought it would be one of the plays that we should do because it
would encourage revolution,” she said. “It’s tragic that 30 years
later it’s still valid. It shouldn’t be anymore.”

Four years ago she decided to realize her lifelong dream of having a
theater with a living space above it. She sold the eight-room West End
Avenue apartment where she had lived with Mr. Beck, who died in 1985,
and their two children, and put the money into the Clinton Street
space, where she has a 20-year lease but no other financing.

The reception from the theatrical world has been warm. “Tony Kushner
promised us a new play,” Mr. Reznikov said. “Jim Rado, who wrote
‘Hair,’ just gave us a new play.” And Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater, who
has been promoting “The Brig” there, sent a bouquet of flowers,
with a black card signed, “In socialist solidarity.”

But it remains to be seen whether socialist solidarity will fill seats.
The opening-night crowd was mostly the couple’s gray-haired (and
ponytailed) friends, and it had the air of a leftist reunion.

Still, Ms. Malina’s drive remains undimmed. She and Mr. Reznikov were
elated to find a building with an elevator to ferry her between the
apartment and the theater — “so she can direct until she’s
105,” Mr. Reznikov said.

She still begins her day by writing in a diary. Two collections of her
entries — one spanning 1947 to 1957, and the other, “The Enormous
Despair,” a memoir of her American homecoming in 1968 — have been
published so far. In their three-room apartment, still sparsely
furnished, save for dozens of boxes with labels like “thesis +
texts,” Ms. Malina sits at a small wooden desk with a green-shaded lamp,
editing poetry and working on a book about the director Erwin Piscator, a
progenitor of Brecht’s. (She began it in 1945, when she studied with
Piscator.)

With the help of one employee, she runs the theater alongside Mr.
Reznikov, who took over where Mr. Beck left off, personally and
professionally. Among her other projects is preparing for the Living
Theater’s next show, a two-woman play based on a Doris Lessing novel.
Ms. Malina expects to star.

What does she like to do for fun?

“I like to make love,” Ms. Malina said. “Study. I don’t do much
else except study, make love and run the theater.”

“I mean,” she added, “we’re big love bugs. We think that’s
the answer: Make love, not war."

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/05/theater/05malina.html
Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Ask
  • Kirtsy
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Twitter
  • SlashDot
  • Reddit
  • MySpace
  • Fark
  • Del.icio.us
  • Blogmarks
  • Yahoo Buzz
Underground Veteran, Judith Malina, Resurfaces in a Basement | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Underground Veteran, Judith Malina, Resurfaces in a Basement
Authored by: coyote on Saturday, May 05 2007 @ 01:14 PM CDT
That's about the most godawfully condescending piece of crap about a great artist i've ever seen.