U T H O R S
- JULIAN BECK & JUDITH MALINA
of the LIVING THEATER
- French theorist Antonin Artaud
called for "a theatre in which
- the actors are like victims
burning at the stake, signalling thru
- the flames." For five decades,
Julian Beck and his wife & part-
- ner Judith Malina have done
just that with their tribal troupe,
- The Living Theatre.
With their revolutionary art and
passionate performances, they smashed the barriers between art and politics.
They left an inde-
- lible mark on the form of theatre
itself, pushing it off its com- fortable naturalistic pedestal and into
experimental realms of
- radical confrontation, stirring
ritual, and spectacle that was no
- less vivid for its frequent
They took their central theme of
the world as prison to the the-
- atres and the streets across
Europe, the United States and Brazil, questioning the authority of political
power everywhere with
- stamina and commitment.
The Living put on new and controversial
plays of their own,
- produced works by the then-unseen
new wave of European playwrights, explored a myriad of new forms pulled
from the theatrical theories of Brecht & Artaud.
Perhaps above all, they
- moved theatre squarely into
the political arena, challenging qui-
- escent assumptions and cherished
idealogies. Founded in 1947,
- the theatre began by producing
the works of Picasso, T.S. Eliot,
- John Ashberry, W. H. Auden,
Jean Cocteau, Paul Goodman, Strindberg and Pirandello.
The theatre took on national prominence
in 1959 when it pre-
- sented Jack Gelber's hyper-realistic
view of drug pushers and
- addicts. "The Connection,"
complete with hazy jazz, needles
- shooting into arms and street
language transferred to the stage,
- was explosive. The public was
From 1959 to 1963, in a space that
John Cage and Merce Cun-
- ningham helped to find, the
Living Theatre became the center
- of New York's cultural avant-garde
and the goad of its social conscience. This was not without consequences.
- tion of "The Brig,"
Kenneth Brown's searing look at human de- basement in a Marine prison,
led to calls for military reform.
- And may have provoked the government:
The IRS moved in, demanding back taxes and eventually seized their theatre.
After protests to save it failed, Beck and Malina locked themselves in
- the stage prison where they
stayed until they were physically
- removed and taken to real jail.
Smacked with a five-year suspended
sentence, Beck and Malina
- left for Europe. There they
developed their best-known works, "Frankenstein," "Mysteries,"
"Antigone," and "Paradise Now."
- They became known for confronting
the audience with its pas-
- sivity, often dragging spectators
into the aisles, inducing them
- into performances and inciting
them to mass action.
In 1968, they were involved in the
Paris student riots. In 1970,
- they took their theatre into
the streets with pieces developed for public places in Europe, the U.S.,
and Brazil. It was not until
- the late 70s that they returned
to conventional venues, perform-
- ing Ernst Toller's 1920 Masse
Mensch and their own new plays,
- Seven Meditations on Political
Sado-Masochism, The Yellow
- Methuselah and Beck's last work,
The Archaeology of Sleep.
Their odyssey lasted nearly twenty
years. In 1983 Beck, Mali-
- na and The Living returned to
New York for a run at the Joyce
- Theater. The repertoire was
met with critical hostility. Before
- they could find money for a
space of their own, Julian was dia-
- gnosed with stomach cancer.
Beck died in 1985. Not just a political
and artistic iconoclast,
- he was also a pacifist, anarchist,
feminist, vegetarian, theorist
- of gay- and bi-sexuality, and
unflaggingly creative. His abstract paintings showed at Peggy Guggenheim's
gallery & formed huge, scrolling backdrops for
at least one Living Theatre production.
- His book, "Life of the
Theatre", has appeared in more than one edition.
Malina shared his passions &
was prolific as well, publishing dia-
- ries and poems, teaching theater
at New York University, and continuing to produce work with The Living
after Beck's death.
Beck and Malina were a uniquely
ardent couple. Together they
- fought against the cold war
and the folly of bomb shelters, Viet-
- nam, prison conditions, economic
injustice and repression of all
- kinds. They and troupe members
were jailed a dozen times in half
- as many countries. Their personal
life was no less unconventional,
- and it was entirely consistent
with their political principles. In
- his theory of freedom, Beck
proposed that the erotic pattern is
- one on which we base our social
structure. If the sexual pattern
- is rigid, our political and
social lives will be rigid. It begins in
- the home and continues in Congress.
The best way for the indivi-
- dual to break out of it is to
break out of sexual cliches.
Judith and Julian practiced what
they preached. Beck had a long-
- time male lover in the company,
Illion Troya. Judith too was in-
- volved with one of the troupe,
Hannon Resnikov, a man decades
- her junior, whom she married
after Julian's death.
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last update june 98
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