- Posted: 5:59 PM, May 9, 2012
And then there's the Living Theatre , est. 1947 by Judith Malina and the late Julian Beck. Yes, 1947, which means that Malina, 85, has been at it for 65 years. This would be impressive in and of itself, but Malina picked a tough path: Few, if any, institutions (an ironic term when referring to the Living Theatre) can claim such radical politics and aesthetics. The company demanded absolute physical and mental commitment to perform its anti-authoritarian works, erasing the line between public and private, performers and audience. Malina reminisced about those wild years in this 2007 interview with the Post. This montage will give you an idea of the general vibe -- the LT made the hippies of "Hair" look like Mormon missionaries.
Here's also an excerpt from a doc about the LT in which Beck and Malina talk about the 1959 production of "The Connection," a harrowing piece about drug addicts (I love the bit about "being real on the stage without feigning realism"). Shirley Clarke made it into a movie that was censored almost immediately after its 1962 release, and has just been restored and re-released to great acclaim. (Note that the Post liked it back then! )
But both the company's Lower East Side venue and Malina (who lives above the theater) are in danger of being evicted for being late on the rent. Financial troubles aren't new to the LT: The group moved to Europe in the 1960s to escape the IRS. As for the current predicament, the deadline is just days away, and you can contribute here .
We may argue about whether or not the Living Theatre is still relevant and deserves to be saved -- the same discussion happened among music fans when CBGB's was struggling for its life. I can't remember the last time a LT show had any buzz. Still, while it would be sad if the venue closed, the idea of Malina being thrown out on the street makes me gag, if only from a basic human standpoint. Is this what things have come to?
What burns me is that the $24,000 needed to end this crisis -- or at least forestall it -- is chump change for many New Yorkers. There are lots of people making lots of money in this town, but most prefer art-collecting when it comes to showing off their worth; it's harder to brag about supporting an ephemeral art like theater -- and the people who've dedicated their lives to it without health insurance or financial security -- especially if you can't stick your name on some plaque somewhere.