Judith Malina, woman alone (sort of)
By JERRY TALLMER
August 20 - 26, 2008
There's going to be a benefit at Joe's Pub this coming Monday, August
25, in honor of Judith Malina and The Living Theater, but Judith,
though she will certainly be there along with Debbie Harry and other
revolutioniststhe evening is headlined "Revolutionary Acts"doesn't
really want to talk about that.
She wants to talk about "Eureka!"
Imagine. Eighty-two years old, with hearing aids in both ears that do
not work worth a damn, a woman alone after the deaths of the two men
who were the lights of her lifeJulian in 1985, Hanon just this past
Mayand here she is, bringing forth to the stage as director (she's
only been doing this for sixtysomething years) yet one more extremely
offbeat drama, a heritage from Hanon, who left her and us before he
could complete it
"October 1," she says with a certain force. "That's when we open.
'Eureka, exclamation mark.' Yes, at The Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street.
"It's a participatory show – actors and audience participating
together. Fifteen characters. Two of them are Poe and Humboldt"Edgar
Allen Poe, he of "The Raven," that is, and Alexander von Humboldt,
the 19th-century explorer and naturalist.
"Everything is flourishingexcept money," she says. This is the
lifelong avant-garde torchbearer who likes to quote from Tennyson: "
… To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Julian Beck, poet, painter, actor, designer, ethereal
anarchist, whom she fell in love with in their teens, and with whom
she founded The Living Theater in the 1940s and built it into
worldwide often-jailed fame, died of cancer, at 60, in 1985.
Hanon Reznikov, a Yale physics major from Brooklyn, was so thrilled
by the Living Theater"s "Paradise Now" that in 1977 he dropped
everything and joined that company, where he would flower as writer,
director, and actor. He and Judith got married three years after the
death of Julian. The groom was 24 years younger and almost that many
inches taller than the bride.
"Hanon and Julian and I really ran the theater together," she says.
"We were lovers together. Everybody knew that."
A romantic triumvirate?
"Yes. And because we were a trio, there was a kind of rhythm in our
lives. And because I was never an independent woman – because we
always worked togethermaybe I shouldn't say this, it could turn the
feminists against meit was always a partnership, so it's very
difficult for me now."
Judith Malina, dependent woman! Maybe you should ask the fire
inspector whom she threw a spear at one day in the '40s during the
rehearsals of an Aeschylus or a Euripedes at the Cherry Lane, one of
the earliest of the Living Theater's many way stations. Or ask any
one of the actors in "The Connection": or: "The Brig" or "Paradise
Now" or any other Living Theater curtain-smasher.
She pats the knee of a very nice young man who is sort of an aide
these daysBrad Burgess, 23, from Boston. "A wonderful actor," she
says, "who gave up being in a European tour of 'The Brig'"Kenneth
Brown's jolting 1960s play about a U.S. Marines punishment center
(think Guantanamo, 2001-2008)"to help me out. And he was just
wonderful in 'The Brig' in a whole variety of roles."
It was during the original run of "The Brig," at 14th Street and
Sixth Avenue, that the feds busted The Living Theater for back taxes.
The cast, crew, audience, Julian, Judith, everybody swarmed over the
roof and into the theater for one last bootleg performance. As
recently as July 4, 2007, when a new generation of Living Theater
people went to perform "The Brig" at Ground Zero, New York City cops
tried to bust them all over again. Nothing changes.
Or everything changes. That is one of the possibilities raised by
"Eureka!," a play derived and begun by Hanon Reznikov from an 1848
book of the same title by Edgar Allen Poe, then finished by Judith
after Hanon's death.
"It was Poe's last book," she says, "a huge book, and practically
unreadable. He called it 'a prose poem' '' -- and dedicated it to
Humboldt, a fellow explorer of terra incognita. "Poe realized,
reading the works of Humboldt, that the beginning of creation must
have come from a singularity, a single point, which somehow exploded
in what we now call the Big Bang."
Or, to put it in terms of one of the lines in the play (Poe
speaking): "My proposition is this: In the original unity of the
first thing lies the cause of all things, with the germ of their
Bang! And if you know Judith Malina and The Living Theater over all
these years, the Big Bang of human orgasm is wrapped somewhere all
through that equation too.
Indeed, "the Big Bang will happen on our stage," she says. "The Big
Bang is when everything flew outward, and is still flying outward. My
objective is to make the audience realize they are participating in creation."
Hey, Judith, you've been participating in creation since the cradle,
wouldn't you say?
"That's rightbut not everybody knows it," she says, clasping her
hands and nodding affirmation.
"Of course the scientists of that day pooh-poohed Poe's theory,"
Judith says, "and as Hanon was reading along, he said: 'I could make
a play of this.' I said: 'How could you possibly?' and Hanon said:
'I have a lot of ideas,' and began making lots of notes.
"We actually started rehearsing in January and February, and then he
died. He was working along under terrible stressthe difficulty of
maintaining the theaterand one morning [April 9] he couldn't speak
very well. He'd had a stroke. I called 911. He was taken to Beth
Israel, where after a month we thought he was improving. But then he
got pneumonia, and two days later he was dead" (at 57).
They had survived much together, including a year or more in a
rathole one-room apartment off Times Square while waiting for
construction to be completed on the Living Theater's new Lower East
Side premises at 21 Clinton Street that they'd bought on the proceeds
from the sale of the great old rambling West End Avenue
apartmentonce Julian's parents; apartment – where Judith and Julian,
and then Hanon, had lived for many years.
Back to "Eureka!" for a moment. It hypothesizes three kinds of
civilization, Judith says: the cyclic civilization, "where everything
will start all over again after another Big Bang;" the progressive
civilization "that we live in now;" and the dissident, or anarchic,
That would be your choice, right, Judith?
"Yes, I am an anarchist," says Judith Malina, the rabbi's daughter,
born Kiel, Germany, June 4, 1926. "Anarchists are looking for an
alternative to the destruction of civilization. They like it this way."
And her Living Theater is looking forward far beyond "Eureka!"right
at the moment, hopefully, to a 50th- anniversary production, on or
around New Year's, of the late Jack Gelber's "The Connection," the
1959 so-called "jazz play" that smashed, as never before, the glass
wall between actors and audience, and was cordially detested by all
but a few reviewers of its day (you are reading one of the few). Its
subject: a bunch of guys, some of them musicians, waiting around in a
dingy pad for Cowboy to come with their fix.
How do you keep alive, Judith? How do you eat? Do you cook?
"I don't cook" she replies with asperity. "I don't cook anything.
Never did. I really maintain myself with the help of the Living
Living Theaterthe sixtysomething-year-old international commune.
Think of it that way.
Which brings us back to "Revolutionary Acts," the August 25 benefit
at Joe's Pub organized by Barbara Maier, a voice teacher who lives in
Chelsea and read about Judith in Goodie magazine, the journal edited
and published by Romy Ashby and Foxy Kidd. "I can't stand to see
authentic New York disappear,'" says Ms. Maier. She has taught voice
to most of the people on the star-studded August 25 entertainment bill.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets $30
(standing room) to $50 (plus $12 minimum at tables). Call (212)
967-7555 or (212) 539-8778, or go to www.joespub.com.
"Money!" says Judith Malina in her 82nd year. "It wore Hanon down and
is wearing me down. But I'm too busy to care."
Revolutionary Acts: A Benefit for the Living Thea
Date/Time:Mon., August 25, 7:00pm
VIVA LA REVOLUCIÓN
Keep the Living Theatre alive
You'll never see the Living Theatre do a Disney adaptation, that's
for sure. The company, which was founded in 1947 by Judith Malina and
her husband, Julian Beck, has staged almost 100 works by literary
outsiders like Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Bertolt
Brecht and served as an alternative to commercial theater. In those
60 years, the company has never been able to hold onto a space; now
located on the Lower East Side amid high-end condos and low-income
projects, the theater stages social and political commentary that's
as relevant today as it ever was. Meanwhile, they've got to pay those
LES-size rents. Tonight, several generations of artists and
activistsincluding Debbie Harry, Nellie McKay, Austin Pendleton, the
cast members of Passing Strange, and MC Murray Hillunite for
Revolutionary Acts: A Benefit for the Living Theatre. Join them in
honoring Malina, 81, who will be attending, and the subversive art to
which she's devoted her life.
Judith Malina to Be Honored at 4th Annual IT Awards
By: Brian Scott Lipton · Aug 22, 2008
Living Theatre co-founder Judith Malina will receive the 2008
Artistic Achievement Award at the 4th Annual New York Innovative
Theatre Awards (IT Awards), dedicated to celebrating
Off-Off-Broadway, to take place at the Fashion Institute of
Technology on September 22.
Honorary awards will also be given to New York Theatre Experience and
the Boomerang Theatre Company at the event, which will feature an
opening number by Blue Man Group.
Among the many nominees are Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company's Fight
Girl Battle World, which received nominations for outstanding
production of a play, playwright Qui Nguyen, outstanding ensemble,
featured actor Paco Tolson, director Robert Ross Parker,
choreographer Qui Nguyen, costume designer Jessica Wegener, and sound
designer Patrick Shearer. The musicals Honor, The People Vs. Mona,
and The Rockae all received nominations, as did Yank!, for which
Bobby Steggert was nominated as Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role.
Other nominees include Taylor Mac's The Young Ladies Of... for both
solo and performance art production; Petronia Paley for her solo On
the Way to Timbuktu; director Emma Griffin for Removable Parts;
composer Peter Mills for The Rockae; playwright Bekah Brunstetter for
You May Go Now; and the New York Neo-Futurists for ensemble work and
performance art production, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
For tickets or more information, visit www.nyitawards.com.
Malina, Boomerang and New York Theatre Experience to Be Honored at IT Awards
By Adam Hetrick
22 Aug 2008
The New York Theatre Experience, Boomerang Theatre Company and Living
Theatre founder Judith Malina will be honored at the 2008 Off-Off
Broadway IT Awards.
The 2008 Innovative Theatre Awards will be presented Sept. 22 at the
Fashion Institute of Technology. The evening, celebrating the best of
Off Off-Broadway, will open with a special performance from Blue Man Group.
Living Theatre founder Judith Malina will be honored with the 2008
Artistic Achievement Award, which is "presented to an individual who
has made a significant artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway
community." The Living Theatre is credited with inaugurating the
Off-Off Broadway movement and introducing the U.S. to avant-garde theatre.
The New York Theatre Experience will be presented with the 2008
Stewardship Awards for "demonstrating a significant contribution to
the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and
leadership," for its use of new and traditional media to connect
emerging non-profit artists with theatregoers.
The 2008 Caffe Cino Fellowship, "presented to an Off-Off-Broadway
theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work," will be
awarded to the Boomerang Theatre Company, now in its tenth season.
This award also includes a fellowship to be used toward an
IT Award nominations were announced July 21 at the Off Off-Broadway
venue Our Lady of Pompeii. The 2008 nominations, including 127
individual artists and 47 productions, have been culled from the work
of over 3,000 artists.
For a complete list of nominations, visit www.nyitawards.com.