For Judith Malina, Place is a State of Mind

For Judith Malina, place has always been a state of mind.  This tiny giant of the theatre world has epitomized the life of a nomad over her 66 years of work with the Living Theatre.  Her peripatetic career has taken her company to five continents; she herself has gone from serving time in prison to performing in South American prisons, even to a self-imposed exile from the U.S.

Nonetheless, my first reaction was sadness when I read a report yesterday that she was losing her home above the Living Theatre’s basement performing space on the Lower East Side and moving to an elder care facility in New Jersey.  Malina was a theatre legend before I knew what theatre was.  She and her husband Julian Beck started challenging artistic and political conventions in 1946, staging plays by Gertrude Stein and Bertolt Brecht.  Then they virtually created theatrical “happenings” in the 1960s, using confrontation, audience interaction, improvised music, nudity, and radically unconventional staging.  A police presence at most of their events became the norm.  The company espoused what they call “BANVR”—a Beautiful Anarchist Non-Violent Revolution.


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