The Living Theatre
The Living Theatre
The Living Theatre was formed in 1947 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck. Inspired by psychologist Wilhelm Reich's theories and Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, it was created as an alternative to the commerical theater of the time. Known for its unconventional performance practices—such as breaking down the fourth wall between the actors and the audience, and acting outside of the theater setting—The Living Theatre helped initiate the Off-Broadway movement. The mission statement of The Living Theatre is “to call into question who we are to each other in the social environment of the theater … to move from the theater to the street and from the street to the theater.” In addition to writing and perfoming its own works, the group has performed plays by Gertrude Stein and William Carlos Williams, as well as the works of European writers such as Jean Cocteau and Paul Goodman.
Julian Beck was born in New York City on May 31, 1925. In the summer of 1943, Beck received a 4–F classification during a physical examination for admitting an inclination towards homosexuality. It was emphasized by a psychiatrist that Beck’s inclination was curable and that he should date women as a form of treatment. As a result, Beck met Judith Malina at an actors' club called Genius Inc., on September 14, 1943. Malina, an aspiring actress and a protégée of Erwin Piscator, discussed with Beck the concept of a theater with productions written by poets and performed as an alternative to the more commercial shows of Broadway. In 1948 Beck married Malina, and in 1951, The Living Theatre officially began in the living room of the Becks’ Upper West Side apartment. The couple made friends amongst the avant-garde of New York society, and in 1952, they rented the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village as a venue for The Living Theatre's performance of John Ashbery's The Heroes (1952), as well as several plays by poet Kenneth Rexroth. The Cherry Lane Theatre was closed in 1953 by the fire marshall who cited a fire hazard caused by the paper sets that Beck had created. The Living Theatre moved to a loft on Broadway at 100th Street, until that building was closed by the Buildings Department in 1956. In 1963, the I.R.S. closed The Living Theatre’s new location on 14th Street. From 1964 to 1968, The Living Theatre became nomadic, performing at various outdoor venues in Europe, but never staying at one place for long. In the 1970s, The Living Theatre began touring in Brazil, where certain members of the troupe were jailed on charges of selling marijuana and using their performances to create political upheaval. While in prison, the performers of The Living Theatre began to put on plays for the inmates. The members of the group were released from jail after celebrity appeals were made to the ruling military juntas of Brazil. In 1985, The Living Theatre experienced two major changes: Julian Beck's death from stomach cancer and the opening of The Living Theatre on Third Street in Manhattan with Malina and codirector Hanon Reznikov producing a wide range of works. In 1992 the venue on Third Street was closed by the Building Department, and The Living Theatre returned to nomadic performances in the New York area.
The Living Theatre has produced more than 80 productions in eight languages in over 25 countries. The works performed are known for their avante-garde subject matter and audience participation. Some of the more popular and controversial productions have been The Connection (1959) by Jack Gelber, a play about drug addiction during which the actors solicit money from the audience to pay off their heroin habit; and Kenneth H. Brown's The Brig (1963), which focuses on cruelty in a Marine Corps prison. New adaptations of previous plays—both Antigone (1967) and Frankenstein (1965) were retooled as war protest pieces—generated both critical acclaim and political retribution. The production of Frankenstein that opened in Venice, Italy, lead to the acting troupe being deported from the country. In the 1970s, The Living Theatre created The Legacy of Cain plays for nontraditional venues, such as prisons in Brazil, schools in New York City, and a Pittsburgh steel mill, and performed for large audiences free of charge. Some of the Legacy of Cain plays included Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism (1973), Six Public Acts (1975), and The Destruction of the Money Tower (1975). The Living Theatre has also held poetry readings by Allen Ginsberg, Imamu Amiri Baraka, and Frank O'Hara, as well as lectures by Joseph Campbell and Maya Deren. Since The Living Theater's return to New York in the early 1980s, it has staged a variety of plays such as Not In My Name (1997), a protest piece against the Death Penalty, which has been held in both New York and Italy on days when an execution is scheduled to take place, and a play based on Fernand Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-18th Century, Capital Changes called Capital Changes (1998).
Many critics have compared The Living Theatre to Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. The works of both groups have combined politics with aesthetic imagination, and both theatres have been highly controversial and political. The Living Theatre's performance of The Brig lead to the troupe's 14th Street venue being seized by the I.R.S, as well as an early termination from the Mermaid Theatre in London. Mysteries and Smaller Pieces (1964)—an amalgamation of yoga techniques, acting, singing, and audience participation—was banned in Trieste for nudity. The show was also banned in Vienna by the fire department when student-actors in the audience joined the troupe on stage during the performance, inspiring brawls between audience members after the show. Criticism of the group's productions has been mixed due to the ever changing format that The Living Theatre presents to its audience. Audience reaction and participation have frequently been key elements to each Living Theatre production, and the troupe's practice of breaking down the fourth wall between the stage actors and the audience has been positively received.
Childish Jokes [by Paul Goodman] 1951
He Who says Yes and He Who says No [by Bertolt Brecht] 1951
Ladies' Voices [by Gertrude Stein] 1951
Desire Trapped by the Tail [by Pablo Picasso] 1952
Faustina [by Paul Goodman] 1952
The Heroes [by John Ashbery] 1952
Sweeney Agonistes [by T. S. Eliot] 1952
Ubu the King [by Alfred Jarry] 1952
The Age of Anxiety [by W. H. Auden] 1954
Phèdre [by Jean Racine] 1955
Tonight We Improvise [by Luigi Pirandello] 1955
The Connection [by Jack Gelber] 1959
Many Loves [by William Carlos Williams] 1959
The Apple [by Jack Gelber] 1961
Red Eye of Love [by Arnold Weinstein] 1961
Man Is Man [by Bertolt Brecht] 1962
The Brig [by Kenneth H. Brown] 1963
Mysteries and Smaller Pieces 1964
The Maids [by Jean Genet] 1965
Paradise Now 1968
Christmas Cake for the Hot Hole and the Cold Hole 1970
Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism...
(The entire section is 249 words.)
Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: Clurman, Harold. Review of The Living Theatre. Nation 207, no. 14 (28 October 1968): 445.
[In the following review, Clurman argues that The Living Theatre is a cult, not a theater.]
There are more than a few people in Europe and America who believe that the company known as The Living Theatre (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is making a vital contribution to the theatre. Having seen three of its four presentations I judge that Le Living (as the French call it) is more concerned with “living” than with theatre.
The company disarms criticism. Its productions are a way of life, closer to religious manifestations than to either art or entertainment. Though it borrows haphazardly from various arts and artists. The Living Theatre is anti-art. One cannot blandly declare that its performances are boring because they lack measure, every turn, scene and sound being prolonged to our breaking point: “rituals” are always enervating to the uninitiate. “Be bored, you brutes!” the company might retort. “Get sore! Go crazy!—then at least you will be open to emotion!” The usual points made against the “Living's” group exhibits are not relevant to its intention.
My initial impression on seeing Frankenstein, the first item in the four-week program, was not of the company's rancor but of sweetness. No matter how absurd the cavortings, I thought only...
(The entire section is 795 words.)
SOURCE: Gilman, Richard. “It's a Show.” New Republic 159, no. 19 (9 November 1968): 29ff.
[In the following essay, Gilman criticizes The Living Theatre for bad acting, bad faith, and childishness.]
When the Living Theatre left America for Europe four years ago I was among those who wished them well in their self-exile and, as it seemed to me, their opportunity to find out what they were really about. I'd always been troubled by them, having admired them more, I suspect, in theory than as an actuality. I defended them as often because of their detractors—most of whom represented everything sterile and commonplace in the theatre—as because of their own occasionally memorable productions—The Connection, The Brig.
Their regular (and belligerent) lapses of taste, intelligence, even simple skill never convinced me of some splendid amateurism full of redeeming spontaneity and unacademic prowess, nor were those lapses ever entirely offset by the group's energy, daring and originality, whenever the latter quality sporadically showed itself. And the way they mixed theatre and politics, or rather the way, in that earlier incarnation, they didn't fuse them but seemed torn between opposing claims so that they would drop their stage activities, no matter who suffered—actors, audiences with tickets in hand, playwrights—to go off on a march, or would break an...
(The entire section is 2366 words.)
SOURCE: Cutler, Bruce. “Two Plays of the Living Theatre: The Difficult Wisdom of Nothing.” Wichita State University Bulletin 53, no. 3 (August 1977): 3–21.
[In the following essay, Cutler attempts to define the techniques of The Living Theatre through an anatomy of the technique of two of its experimental pieces.]
It is not an easy task to give a single name to recent developments in American theater, for generalizations are usually most effective when they are made retrospectively, and certainly it is too early to make definitive judgments about American theater in the 1960's. Yet movements such as Julian Beck's Living Theatre, and playwrights such as Jack Gelber and Arnold Weinstein, helped give American theater in that period a definite character. What elements of that character we might observe as having been important is the first question to be taken up in this inquiry; the second is how two specific examples, the plays entitled The Apple by Jack Gelber and Red Eye of Love by Arnold Weinstein, may illustrate them.
Experimentation by playwrights in the early 1960's was hardly confined to the United States, or to the Living Theatre. Much of what was attempted had its roots in the works of Bertolt Brecht, and indeed many of the problems which playwrights dealt with as well as some of the techniques they used may be seen to have their roots in Brecht's works. At...
(The entire section is 8056 words.)
SOURCE: Sainer, Arthur. “The Several Stages of the Embattled Living Theatre.” Theater 16, no. 2 (spring 1985): 52–7.
[In the following essay, Sainer traces the shifting reliance The Living Theatre has had on the pre-written text as the basis for its productions.]
By the winter of '84-'85, the Living Theatre had made the decision to settle (if that is the word) once again in New York City. Until the previous summer, it had hopes of establishing a two-cities base, performing six months in Paris and six months in New York, but events, not the least of which is Julian Beck's serious illness, have forced the company to reappraise what is possible. Julian, who originally came to theater from painting, has been eyeing his early canvases—indeed they fill the Becks' living room walls with their massive yellows, with their bright, sculpture-like forms—and sensing a desire to return to his early love. Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov (the latter conceived and directed The Yellow Methuselah) have been conferring for long periods on the Living Theatre's next step. These discussions have been taking place in the Becks' Upper West Side apartment, hardly a quarter of a mile from where the first Living Theatre productions were mounted in the mid-Fifties. The next step? Paris offered a home, there are no such firm offers in New York—the Living needs a home, it needs funds to finance the work....
(The entire section is 3959 words.)
SOURCE: Moore, Honor. “The Visit: A Memoir of the Living Theatre at Yale.” Theater 28, no. 3 (1998): 23–30.
[In the following essay, Moore describes a visit by The Living Theatre to Yale in 1968, the conflicts it generated, and the way the visit changed her idea of theater.]
When I arrived in September 1967, the Yale School of Drama promised everything to a 22-year-old in love with the theater, and everyone, it seemed, wandered through it: Sam Shepard with a ponytail down his back; Stella Adler in her seventies, a long-stemmed red rose secured in the décolletage of her black sheath; Jonathan Miller to direct Robert Lowell's version of Prometheus Bound; Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, and William Styron promising to write plays; Kenneth Haigh, Stacy Keach, Ron Leibman, and Mildred Dunnock as members of the new, much-trumpeted repertory company. Robert Brustein had arrived the year before, and, fresh from storming the walls of the American theater establishment in the pages of the New Republic, painted the interior of Yale's venerable theater radical red.
Ever since my fifth-grade class wrote and produced Do the Scales of Egypt Balance? in which I played the pharaoh's daughter, putting on plays had charged my imagination. All through school, theater relieved the stress of my split existence—a the daughter of WASP liberal activists and the possessor of an...
(The entire section is 3160 words.)
SOURCE: Reznikov, Hanon. “Jerzy Grotowski, 1933–1999.” Theater 29, no. 2 (1999): 8.
[In the following obituary tribute to Jerzy Grotowski, Reznikov describes the differences between Jerzy Grotowski's Poor Theatre and The Living Theatre.]
After the Living Theater went into exile in Europe in the mid-1960s, its path began to cross with Grotowski's Polish Laboratory Theater. At the time, both groups were considered, each in its distinct way, to be at the cutting edge of “experimental” theater. The differences could not have been more apparent. The Grotowski people were not particularly interested in the audience; for the Living Theater the audience was everything. People inside and outside the two groups believed that these differences simply reflected their respective environments. Communist Poland, which had made a version of revolutionary ideology the state religion, inspired a theater that turned away from the social lie in order to discover an inner truth. On the other hand, the United States, which had sought to suppress all talk of revolution as communist propaganda, gave rise to a theater insistent on delivering its revolutionary message directly. Both companies, however, sensed a strong bond linking them. The techniques both groups developed were strikingly convergent in terms of emotional intensity and raw physicality. More importantly, both were groups eager to go as far as they dared,...
(The entire section is 1905 words.)
SOURCE: Harding, James M. “Dissent Behind the Barricades: Radical Art, Revolutionary Stages, and Avant-Garde Divisions.” In Contours of the Theatrical Avant-Garde, Performance and Textuality, pp. 176–201. Ann Arbor: Univeristy of Michigan Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Harding combines a report of the occupation/liberation of the Odeon Theatre in Paris in 1968 with a discussion of the integration of vanguard politics and art as expressed in the opposing positions advanced by Beck and Jean-Louis Barrault.]
AVANT-GARDE DIVISIONS: DISUNITY IN THE RECONCILIATION OF RADICAL ART AND RADICAL POLITICS
In the fall of 1968, just as the journal TDR was sending to press a seminal essay on European experimental theater, its author, Jean-Jacques Lebel, asked that a postscript be added. As if questioning the entirety of the essay, the postscript to “On the Necessity of Violation” began, “Something has changed.” The immediate something to which Lebel referred was the boundary that had been crossed in French theater during the events in Paris in May 1968. The crossing was perhaps nowhere more prominently signified than in the student-led occupation of the Odéon Théâtre de France. Having decided against an assault on the senate, the Louvre or the ORTF (the French Radio and Television Offices), the students together with others sympathetic to their cause seized the...
(The entire section is 11853 words.)
SOURCE: Malina, Judith, Kenneth Brown, and Richard Schechner. “Interviews with Judith Malina and Kenneth Brown.” Tulane Drama Review 8, no. 3 (spring 1964): 207–19.
[In the following interview, Schechner talks first with Malina and then with Kenneth Brown, the author of The Brig, about the Internal Revenue Service's seizure of The Living Theatre's assets and about The Brig.]
[Malina:] This interview is being conducted from the street to the third floor, which is the office of The Living Theatre. Richard Schechner is down on the street now with an improvised megaphone. It is 1:30 a.m., Friday, October 19th. My name is Judith Malina. I'm standing in the window of The Living Theatre, where we are now captives, or free will captives, since we do not want to leave.
[Schechner:] How are the Feds treating you?
One of them was finally convinced to accept a creamcheese and jelly sandwich from the food that had been sent up to us by rope and basket. Generally they have been friendly, though there have been incidents of unfriendliness and discourtesy. In locking up and sealing off the place they have occasionally not been considerate of personal property. The box office girl, who put some money of her own in The Living Theatre cash-box, has had it confiscated.
How long do you plan to stay?
We plan to stay here...
(The entire section is 4577 words.)
SOURCE: Israel, Steve Ben with Arthur Sainer. “The Living Theatre.” The New Radical Theatre Notebook, pp. 249–55. New York: Applause, 1997.
[In the following transcript of a radio interview broadcast on WBAI-FM in New York City in 1971, Israel, a member of The Living Theatre, describes how The Living Theatre created plays with children in a Brazilian village.]
Comments on The Mother's Day Play, one of the projected 150-play plays in The Legacy of Cain.
Having watched the development of the Living Theatre from its early Connection days to the time when it moved away not only from prepared scripts and from interiors of theatres but to a joining of forces with the spectator in the making of the work, I thought it most important to present their latest effort in some feasible form in this book. Therefore, the report on why and how The Mother's Day Play happened.
The Report on The Mother's Day Play is in the nature of an interview with Steve Ben Israel of the Living Theatre that I taped in December 1971 for WBAI-FM, New York.
[Sainer:] The troupe in Brazil had started a new, what they call 150-play play, called The Legacy of Cain. They were able to perform several parts of it on several occasions and nothing since then because of the arrest of the company on drug charges. Steve, do you...
(The entire section is 2690 words.)
Criticism: The Connection
SOURCE: Brustein, Robert. “Junkies and Jazz.” New Republic 141, no. 13 (28 September 1959): 29–30.
[In the following review, Brustein praises the authenticity and the theatricality of The Living Theatre's production of The Connection.]
When you enter the off-Broadway theater where The Connection is playing in repertory, you have a few moments before the action begins to formulate your expectations. The curtain is drawn, and on the stage some excessively seedy characters are arranged in various attitudes of weariness and gloom. The setting is a tawdry tenement, the furniture is delapidated, the quarters cramped and dirty. Painted on the wall upstage is a crudely executed pyramid, a revivalist motto, and a huge disembodied eye; hanging from the flies is a single green lightbulb. The play, you have been informed, is about drug addiction. The subject is unpromising; and Lower Depths naturalism, it appears, is to be the inevitable treatment. Yet, something is not in place here—the imaginary fourth wall has not been constructed. The actors are aware of the audience, and even somewhat distressed at the presence. It is making them nervous, disturbing their peace.
Soon, two actors, claiming to be the writer and the producer of the play, run down the aisle; and begin to speak to the spectators. Your expectations shift. Inductions, direct audience address, entrances through the...
(The entire section is 1138 words.)
SOURCE: Abel, Lionel. “Not Everyone Is in the Fix.” Partisan Review 27, no. 1 (winter 1960): 131–36.
[In the following essay on The Connection, Abel states that the play challenges the audience to become aware of and to evaluate their deeds and desires.]
You are not where you wanted to be, nor will you get what you expected. But do you want to go somewhere else? Where? Not easy to say, but it's not easy to stay where you are, either. You will stay too, unless you are like the reviewers for the dailies, who damned this play almost to a man. Why will you stay? Not in any great hope of pleasure, but as you stay in a dentist's office, motivated by an aching tooth. If you had come to be relieved of your boredom, then you will not be satisfied. You will not be relieved. You will be even more bored than you were when you first came in. More bored and more amenable to further boredom, a state in which there is a certain fascination. You are bored stiff by the junkies on the stage; they are bored stiff too, with each other and with themselves. They are waiting for a “flash.” What are you waiting for? They know what they want. You might decide of course that you know you don't want to wait with them. But for some reason you do wait, until their chance for a “flash” comes. And while you wait as they wait, certainly not for God and not even for Godot, you lose your perspective, that is, assuming...
(The entire section is 2340 words.)
Criticism: Many Loves
SOURCE: Fedo, David A. “The William Carlos Williams-Julian Beck Correspondence and the Production of Many Loves.” William Carlos Williams Newsletter 3, no. 2 (fall 1977): 12–15.
[In the following essay, Fedo discusses a correspondence between Beck and William Carlos Williams regarding The Living Theatre's production of Williams's play Many Loves.]
Some years ago Karl Bissinger, a member of the Living Theatre, wrote in a letter: “It seems to me there is a very interesting story concerning Dr. Williams and the L. T. But Julian would have to give it to you—I don't trust my memory.”1 The story concerned the first major production of a Williams play, Many Loves, published in 1942 but not staged until 1959, when Julian Beck and his wife Judith Malina, founders of the Living Theatre, produced it in New York City.2
That production was a long time in preparation, and many of the details are found in correspondence between Williams and Beck written over a period of 14 years, from 1948 until the early 1960's. This correspondence, held by the University of Texas at Austin, consists of some 60 letters and two postcards, and has never been published.
The record of the writing of Many Loves is already clear. Although completed at the suggestion of Williams' friend Kathleen Hoagland as three separate one-acts, and intended for...
(The entire section is 2439 words.)
Criticism: The Apple
SOURCE: Simon, John. Review of The Apple. Hudson Review 15, no. 1 (spring 1962): 119–20.
[In the following excerpted review, Simon ridicules The Living Theatre's production of The Apple as well as the play itself.]
Just why The Apple is called The Apple I can no more tell you than why it is called (not by me!) a play. Perhaps it is not even called The Apple on all nights, but is freely improvised as preversely as possible by the seven actors who use their own names, so as to shock and rattle us into buying the greatest amount of lemonade and coffee from the same actors during one intermission, and to bid as high as can be, during another, for an action painting one of the actors has squirted and sloshed before our very eyes. It may be that the intermissions are the real thing, and that the three abominable acts of The Pear are merely meant to make us appreciate the entr'actes more fully.
The Banana concerns a Chinese girl, a Negro, a pederast, a whore, a con-man, a spastic, and a typical member of the audience who is the repository of every form of vileness. They act out a number of anarchist, sado-masochist, and obscurantist charades, some of which contain a little effective theatricality, a couple of which abut on meaning, and one of which is imaginative and affecting. But it would be idle to detail the various scenes of The...
(The entire section is 424 words.)
Criticism: Paradise Now
SOURCE: Harley, James. “The Art of Political Engagement: Governmental Responses to Paradise Now in Europe and America.” Theatre Studies 43 (1998): 38–50.
[In the following essay, Harley compares the tactics used in France and in the United States to “limit the political outreach” of The Living Theatre's production of Paradise Now.]
The summer of 1968 found the Living Theatre in Avignon, France, nearing the end of a four year self-imposed exile from America during which the company had developed a small repertoire of alternative dramatic pieces and a reputation for challenging the status quo. Since the company's 1959 production of Jack Gelber's The Connection, and continuing through the 1968 European tour, its challenges increasingly strayed from the artistic arena and began to step more frequently into the political realm.1
Such a shift in emphasis entails certain consequences. The consciously political artwork must be considered within a larger dynamic, for it claims the status of a political entity, not unlike an actual politician announcing publicly his or her intent to challenge. Thus, the artwork enters into the political community, acknowledging its extended ramifications beyond the theatre walls and engages the system, as is the object of politics. Accordingly, by entering the political dialogue the artwork forfeits its asylum and necessarily opens...
(The entire section is 5373 words.)
Criticism: The Archaeology Of Sleep
SOURCE: Rich, Frank. A Review of The Archaeology of Sleep. In Hot Seat: Theatre Criticism for the New York Times, 1980–1993, pp. 289–92. New York: Random House, 1998.
[In the following review, originally published in 1984, Rich pans The Living Theatre and its production of The Archaeology of Sleep.]
As is their wont, the nomadic members of the Living Theatre scamper through the aisles of their new temporary New York home, the Joyce Theatre. And, as is also their wont, they're not content to leave well enough alone. Suddenly, I found a performer poised above me, asking the question, “Are you afraid if I touch you like this?” And, even as the performer's final sibilant lingered in the air, I felt a sweaty kiss on my right ear. Before I could respond, another performer—Julian Beck, the Living Theatre's cofounder, no less—was by my side, asking the same question. The next thing I knew, Mr. Beck had reached his hand under my notebook and placed it between my legs.
Perhaps the only way to avoid such tactile encounters is to extend one leg and send Mr. Beck into a pratfall during one of his earlier journeys up the aisle. I'll never know. Perhaps Mr. Beck had singled me out for special treatment because he identified me as a journalist and was hoping I'd create a scene that would play into his penchant for self-promotion. But feeling more bemused than shocked, I just sat...
(The entire section is 1004 words.)
Criticism: Mysteries And Smaller Pieces
SOURCE: Siegal, Nina. “Living Resurrection.” Theater 25, no. 2 (1994): 107–09.
[In the following review, Siegal argues The Living Theatre's revival of Mysteries and Smaller Pieces revealed the work to be outdated and the company to be over serious and focused only on political generalizations.]
It took a minute to conquer flashbacks—group hugs, spirituality circles and sweat lodges—before I could relinquish my stalwart independence and cooperate with the chant/harmony circle staged by the Living Theater Company. After that minute, separatist skepticism gave way to the soothing effect of 30 voices rising and falling in unison. It had been a long week and a long drive from Connecticut to the East Village in the rain.
But the bliss was only momentary. As abruptly as it began, the circle ended and I was back in the risers observing the completion of the Living Theater's performance like an anthropologist at a square dance. The group chant was the only portion of the their two-hour-and-ten-minute Mysteries and Smaller Pieces that was, as the New York Times misleadingly cautioned, not suited for people who shun audience participation. The greater portion of Mysteries showcased plain-clothed performers in a series of short rituals exploring movement techniques and emotive processes. And like most rituals, these were most exciting for those at the...
(The entire section is 1367 words.)
Criticism: German Requiem
SOURCE: Hornby, Richard. Mad About Theatre, pp. 133–34. New York: Applause, 1996.
[In the following excerpted review, Hornby gives a mixed assesment of The Living Theatre's production of German Requiem.]
Long-time theatregoers will be interested to know that the Living Theatre is alive, if not completely well, in a tiny store front theatre on the lower East Side of New York. The Living Theatre, founded in 1948 by Julian Beck and his wife, Judith Malina, became an important part of the experimental Off-Broadway movement in the fifties. It was also an important part of my own early theatrical experience; I saw all its major productions thirty years ago—William Carlos Williams's Many Loves, Pirandello's Tonight We Improvise, Gelber's The Connection and The Apple (which I saw on my honeymoon, which shows how stage-struck I was!), Brecht's Man is Man, Kenneth H. Brown's The Brig—and became infatuated. How wonderful theatre can be, I thought, and was hooked for life.
Then, as far as I was concerned, the Living Theatre went crazy. Although the Becks had always had an anarchist-pacifist viewpoint (which was OK by me), they also were devoted to a poetic concept of theatre, as the above list of plays indicates. Brown's The Brig was their first openly social-protest play, but it was far more than agit-prop; the rigors of survival in a Marine...
(The entire section is 797 words.)
Gelber, Jack. “Julian Beck (1925–1985).” Drama Review 30, no. 1 (spring 1986): 14.
An obituary tribute to Beck.
———. “Julian Beck, Businessman.” Drama Review 30, no. 2 (summer 1986): 6–29.
Provides a picture of Beck as a theater manager.
Tytell, John. The Living Theatre: Art, Exile, and Outrage. New York: Grove Press, 1995, 434 p.
Interweaves biography and cultural history, with portraits of the Becks, their theater, friends, influences, collaborators, and adversaries.
Beck, Julian. “How to Close a Theatre.” Tulane Drama Review 8, no. 3 (spring 1964): 180–90.
Outlines the history of The Living Theatre, describes the last performance of The Brig, and discusses the plans for the theater's future direction.
Beck, Julian and Judith Malina. “All the World's a Prison.” The Village Voice 2, no. 45 (4 September 1957): 4.
Describes the effects the experience of being jailed for civil disobedience during an air raid shelter drill had on their perception of freedom after they were released.
Biner, Pierre. The Living Theatre. New York: Horizon, 1972, 256 p.
A history of The Living Theatre...
(The entire section is 777 words.)