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Lee Breuer papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1392

Content Description

This collection contains correspondence, writings, photographs, posters, puppets, printed material, personal papers, realia, and other materials created by or relating to the life and work of Lee Breuer.


  • 1920-2020


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 115 (Audiovisual material): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Box 116 (Computer media): Restricted fragile. Reference copies of electronic files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Box 125: Restricted until 2045. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Lee Breuer Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Lee Breuer and Maude Mitchell on the Edwin J Beinecke Book Fund and the Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection Fund, 2020.


Organized in three series: I: Writings and personal papers, 1920-2019. II: Professional papers, 1950-2020. III: Awards and objects, 1978-2020. IV: Production recordings,


65.17 Linear Feet ((124 boxes) + 1 broadside)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Lee Breuer

Esser Leopold "Lee" Breuer (1937-2021) was an American theater director, writer, poet, lyricist, educator, and filmmaker whose work expanded the boundaries of storytelling in the theater. His work has been produced on six continents. By blending disciplines and techniques from widely different cultures, he created a unique performance genre fusing sound and musical components, visual arts, and arresting movement/dance/puppetry into groundbreaking forms.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was an architect for the military and the family moved frequently during Breuer’s childhood. Breuer attended UCLA as an undergraduate and after over ten years of making theater in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, and Great Britain; with periods of study with the Berliner Ensemble, and the Polish Laboratory Theatre, Breuer moved to New York and co-founded Mabou Mines Theater Company in 1970 with JoAnne Akalaitis, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, Frederick Neumann, and David Warrilow.

Breuer directed 13 Village Voice Obie Award-winning performances and received Obies for direction, playwriting, and sustained achievement. Breuer penned over a dozen plays including the Animations trilogy (1968-1978), and The La Divina Caricatura play cycle (1978-2013), all of which he directed. He received wide critical acclaim for his groundbreaking experimental approach, including for his pioneering use of amplified sound on stage, and puppetry in myriad forms. Later collaborating notably with puppeteer/designer Basil Twist on Un tramway nommé désir for the Comédie-Française.

Breuer’s work as a director includes radical adaptations. The Gospel at Colonus, his unprecedented merger of Greek theatre and gospel service became a classic of the contemporary stage, as did his post-Brechtian reinterpretation of Ibsen: Mabou Mines DollHouse.

Over the years, Breuer received numerous awards and fellowships including a Guggenheim, two Fulbrights, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Helen Hayes Award, The Edinburgh Herald Archangel Award for sustained achievement, a sustained achievement award for experimental theater from the Egyptian Minister of Culture, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture. He was also nominated for numerous honors including a Pulitzer, a Grammy, and an Emmy. In 1988 Breuer officially declined a Tony Nomination for Best Book for a production of The Gospel at Colonus.

Breuer’s large family included his five children, daughter Clove Galilee, sons Lute Ramblin’ Breuer, Alexander Tiappa Klimovitsky, Mojo Lorwin, and Wah Mon, and three grandchildren. All of Breuer’s children are artists, and all collaborated with him, as have their mothers: Ruth Maleczech (Hajj, Lear, Summa Dramatica), Polina Klimovitskaya, Liza Lorwin (The Gospel at Colonus, The Warrior Ant, Peter & Wendy) and Leslie Mohn (Pootanah Moksha, The Warrior Ant).

Breuer and Maleczech, who met at UCLA, were married in 1978; they separated approximately two decades later but continued to work together. In 1999, Breuer met actor/dramaturg Maude Mitchell at the Sundance Theatre Lab. They became partners, later marrying. In 2004, Obies were awarded for Breuer’s direction and for Mitchell’s performance as Nora in Mabou Mines Dollhouse, adapted from the Ibsen by Breuer and Mitchell. Breuer and Mitchell continued working, living, and traveling extensively together for over twenty years until Breuer’s death.

In 2019, Getting Off: Lee Breuer on performance with Stephen Nunns (Theater Communications Group), and La Divina Caricatura by Lee Breuer with photographs by Beatriz Schiller (Seagull Books) were both published. The Fifth Voyage written by Breuer and edited by two of his sons, Wah Moh and Mojo Lorwin, was published posthumously by the Performing Arts Journal in 2021.

Guide to the Lee Breuer Papers
By Rosemary K. J. Davis
October 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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