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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II
(1968)

Malpede, Karen
Notes and discussions: off off Broadway: the effort to create a contemporary theatre,   pp. [522]-529 PDF (8.0 MB)


Page 527

The Cafe Theaters
La Mama Experimental Theater Club is
advertised and run as a private club.
Patrons have membership cards which allow
them to attend as many productions
a week as they wish for one dollar. Each
performance at La Mama E.T.C. begins
with Ellen Stewart's reminder that the club
is "dedicated to the playwright and to all
aspects of the theater." If producer is the
proper word for her, Ellen Stewart is the
most prolific producer in New York: A
new play nearly every two weeks for the
past six years. Catalyst is a more apt
description, however. In spite of having had
no theater training, the theater she runs is
in a constant state of activity.
La Mama E.T.C. exists solely as a workshop.
For that reason, Miss Stewart has no
plans of moving to a larger theater.
"Seventy-five people with their hearts
beating at the same time are enough for a
playwright to get an idea of his play's
success."
La Mama E.T.C. maintains three repertory
troupes. The La Mama Repertory Troupe
under the direction of Tom O'Horgan has
toured Europe three times and will
return again this year. Last season they
performed at the Edinburgh Festival,
London's West End and numerous small
festivals. A new non-Equity company has
recently been formed under the direction of
Ed Setrakian. The Plexus Workshop,
directed by Stanley Rosenberg, is based on
the methods of Jerzy Grotowski and
the Polish Laboratory Theater.
The La MaMa Repertory Troupe which
boasts a large and loyal European
audience recently presented Paul Foster's
Tom Paine at an off-Broadway theater.
Foster wrote the play especially for
O'Horgan's troupe and in production form
and content it reaches an exhilarating
synthesis. Written in stark poetic-prose and
employing costumes and lights, in startling
ways, Tom Paine alternates comedy with
drama, random improvisation with
designed music and dance. The style of
Tom Paine is that of the 1960's.
The Playwrights' Workshop Club was
founded February 7, 1966, by 'Ntoni
Bastiano. The club has produced over 50
plays by new writers. Faced with a
dispossess order from the theater's
second landlord, Bastiano is in the market
for a building to house performances and
rehearsals.
Bastiano is a playwright, director and
producer; he has also been known to
design lights and build settings. An
ex-film editor for the American Broadcasting
Co., he felt that "the affluent society was
destroying me as a creative writer."
With money from his ABC job, he opened
the Playwrights' Workshop Club. The Club
is now supported by an admission price
of $1.50.
Like other 00B producers, Bastiano is
often flooded with plays of little merit.
Since his workshop is quite new, he is still
looking for the promising writers who will
validate his efforts:
There is a great deal of emotional satisfaction
in seeing a play come to life. I have a
long range hope that the Playwrights'
Workshop Club will become an institution. I
hope to find the playwrights who someday
will be the new O'Neills, Williams and Millers.
The Open Theater
The Open Theater is more akin to the
Living Theater than to any of the
Off Off Broadway houses. Its search is for
ways to create theater which involve the
collective consciousness of all participants.
America Hurrah! is the product of
Jean-Claude van Itallie's collaboration with
the Open Theater. Viet Rock by Megan
Terry was first presented by the Open
Theater at La MaMa E.T.C. and then
chosen by Robert Brustein for his first
production as head of the Yale University
Drama School. Part of the Mysteries
presentation of the Living Theater in Europe
was originally an Open Theater exercise.
Joseph Chaikin, past member of the
Living Theater, has toured Europe twice
with Beck's group and has spent two
summers working with English director
Peter Brook. Chaikin explains the Open
Theater's objectives:
Our main purpose is to make an ensemble and
to present it. An ensemble is a way of
playing together on stage. Sensitivity to one
another is much more important than star
actors.
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