YALE REMEMBERS THE LIVING THEATRE
By FRANK RIZZO email@example.com
Publication: Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
September 3 2009
In September, 1968 The Living Theatre came to New Haven and gave a
now-legendary performance of "Paradise Now" at New Haven's then-new
Yale Repertory Theatre. It ended in the arrest of 10 performers and
audience members for public indecency.
Now, 41 years later, Judith Malina will be joined by general manager
and archivist Thomas S. Walker and administrative director Brad
Burgess for a series of classes and workshops with Yale School of
There also will be a free public screening of "Signals Through the
Flames" and "Resist!," documentaries about the work of The Living
Theatre, which was founded in 1947. The screenings will be held at
the Rep, 1120 Chapel St., on Sept, 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. The
screenings will be followed by discussions and book signings with
Malina, Walker and Burgess.
The Living Theatre's archives are housed at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book
& Manuscript Library.
40 Years After Indecent Exposure Arrest, Living Theatre's Judith
Malina Back In New Haven
By FRANK RIZZO
September 20, 2009
It starts in silence.
On a sunny September afternoon, in a rehearsal hall on campus, about
40 graduate students from the Yale School of Drama gather in a
circle, arms around each other, breathing as one. Then a low, barely
perceivable sound emerges. It oh-so-gradually increases in volume
until it resembles a hum from a distant hive. It then turns
dissonant, then harmonic, then haunting, suggesting impending action.
After five minutes of modulating, it slowly fades to silence until
the communal ritual ends.
Welcome to the world of The Living Theatre and its workshop on
Call it experimental, avant-garde or communal, the form- and
method-challenging, politically activist theater group which gained
its greatest recognition in this country from the '50s to the '70s
returned last week to the scene of one of its most noted events.
In September of 1968, during a performance of "Paradise Now" at Yale,
company and audience members left the theater and took to the streets.
Gordon Rogoff was associate dean of the Yale School of Drama in 1969
and was in the audience that night. "What they were doing was
deliberately provocative," says Rogoff, who is now professor adjunct
of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at the school. "It was a
provocation that worked because many [in the audience] took it upon
themselves to take to the stage."
Encouraged by the performers, who were wearing loincloths or less,
some audience members were swept up in the ad hoc revolutionary
moment. They left the stately University Theatre on York Street and
paraded to Chapel Street, chanting exhortations that were said
repeatedly during the performance:
"I don't know how to stop the wars."
"I'm not allowed to smoke marijuana."
"I'm not allowed to take my clothes off."
"There were about 40 audiences members who seemed to be taking part
[out of a packed audience of about 600]," says Rogoff.
In the excitement of the moment, the theater's co-founder, Judith
Malina, jumped on the shoulders of an audience member, Tom Walker,
who would later join the company and become its general manager and
archivist. "He carried me down York Street to a waiting paddy wagon,
where the cops busted me," says Malina, delighting in the retelling
of the tale.
"It was all very peaceful, participatory and lovely," says Walker.
"We didn't really know where we were going. But at Chapel Street
there were two police carts waiting for us and we circled the
vehicles and sang 'America the Beautiful.'"
The New Haven Police arrested 10 for indecent exposure.
Robert Brustein, the dean of the School of Drama who invited The
Living Theatre to Yale to perform four works after the company's
"exile" in Europe, recalls "Judith was saying, 'The theater belongs
to the people!,' but there are still fire laws."
Walter Kerr, a leading theater critic at the time, wrote that The
Living Theatre failed to reach beyond its own "caste" of fans and followers.
"Look-alikes spoke to look-alikes here," he wrote in an essay, "and
to look-alikes alone; one could not see how there was ever going to
be much cross-fertilization. ... The Living Theatre died of its
secretiveness, of its failure to invite, or to hook any other segment
of the body politic. Having done some good work (and much bad) it
closed because its single-level audience made up too narrow a level
of support so public an activity as a theater."
Malina, 83, co-founder of the theater in 1947 (with husband, the late
Julian Beck), scoffs at critics like Kerr. "I am not moved by
critics," says Malina, still the group's vital leader. With her
diminutive size, big eyes and knowing smile, she looks like a theatrical Yoda.
Her continued work in the theater, schools and communities decades
later proves the group's importance, even as she struggles with its financing.
When asked if she is bothered that she is known for her role as
Grandma in the film of "The Addams Family," she responds, "Of course
it does! I try to explain that we sometimes have to support the avant
garde with commercial art. I would like not to have had to do 'The
Joan MacIntosh, associate professor adjunct of acting at Yale, says,
"The Living Theatre and other experimental companies traveled around
the world and they've reached thousands of people through their
performances, teachings, books and videos. The principals on which
they work are extraordinary and they live their talk. They're
committed to changing the world in a pacifist way. And she is still
working with a group of young artists who are so passionate about
what they do."
One is them is Brad Burgess, a 24-year-old from Dracut, Mass., who
joined two years ago. Burgess has Pippin hair and devoted eyes and
tends to Malina like a gentle Jedi knight.
"Sometimes the Internet leads you astray, but sometimes it can lead
you to Judith Malina and exactly where you want to be," he says. "I'm
not a trained theater person and I had no clue what The Living
Theatre was at first. I just saw their mission statement and thought,
'Oh wow, that's exactly the kind of thing I'm thinking about and
right now in my life, that's where I need to be."
Malina told the Yale students that The Living Theatre is a world apart.
"The point of our theater was to encourage people to go out of the
theater and do revolutionary actions and to take a wider view of
their possibilities," says Malina. "But if there was a disappointment
it was that things didn't lead to change. We spent years in the
streets, with workers, with the poorest of the poor, with inmates, in
mental institutions. It wasn't a question about going into the street
carrying a banner but about the relationship with each other. The
revolution was about a different attitude of who we are to each
other. I think that has changed for the better and it's still
changing and is more advanced than anything we were doing in 1968.
"The Living Theatre is a group of committed people talking to an
audience about the world and what is important to us," she tells the
Yale students. "But you've got to have something to say. If not, get
out of the way!"
•Read Frank Rizzo's blog on theater, the arts and entertainment
including more on The Living Theatre and Malina's time working at
Hartford's Institute of Living at www.courant.com/curtain.
For more information about the Living Theatre, go to
Two Documentaries About Living Theatre Sept. 14 and 15 In New Haven
Susan Dunne ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
September 10, 2009
Two documentaries about the history of the Living Theatre are being
shown free in New Haven this week in conjunction with a series of
classes at Yale, but admission is open to the public.
"Signals Through the Flames" and "Resist" tell the story of the
groundbreaking acting company, which was founded in 1947.
After the screening, Judith Malina, who co-founded the Living Theatre
with Julian Beck, will do a discussion and book signing, along with
Thomas S. Walker, general manager and archivist of the theater, and
Brad Burgess, its administrative director.
The films will be shown at the Rep, 1120 Chapel St., on Monday and
Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.