Living Theatre Records
Scope and Contents
- Majority of material found within circa 1947-2012
Conditions Governing Access
Uncat MSS 1006 Boxes 268-285, 297-298 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Uncat MSS 1309 Boxes 211-216 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Uncat MSS 1309 Boxes 217-221 (digital media): Restricted fragile material. Access copies of digital files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
529.85 Linear Feet ((564 boxes) + 3 rolls, 6 broadside, and 4 art)
Language of Materials
The Living Theatre
During the 1950's and early 1960's in New York, The Living Theatre pioneered the unconventional staging of poetic drama - the plays of American writers like Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Paul Goodman, Kenneth Rexroth and John Ashbery, as well as European writers rarely produced in America, including Cocteau, Lorca, Brecht and Pirandello. Best remembered among these productions, which marked the start of the Off-Broadway movement, were Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Tonight We Improvise, Many Loves, The Connection and The Brig.
In the mid-1960's, the company began a new life as a nomadic touring ensemble. In Europe, they evolved into a collective, living and working together toward the creation of a new form of nonfictional acting based on the actor's political and physical commitment to using the theater as a medium for furthering social change. The landmark achievements of this period include Mysteries and Smaller Pieces, Antigone, Frankenstein and Paradise Now.
In the 1970's, The Living Theatre began to create The Legacy of Cain, a cycle of plays for non-traditional venues. From the prisons of Brazil to the gates of the Pittsburgh steel mills, and from the slums of Palermo to the schools of New York City, the company offered these plays, which include Six Public Acts, The Money Tower, Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism, Turning the Earth and the Strike Support Oratorium free of charge to the broadest of all possible audiences.
The 1980's saw the group return to the theater, where they developed new participatory techniques that enable the audience to first rehearse with the company and then join them on stage as fellow performers. These plays include Prometheus at the Winter Palace, The Yellow Methuselah and The Archaeology of Sleep.
Following the death of Julian Beck in 1985, co-founder Judith Malina and the company’s new director, veteran Hanon Reznikov, who first encountered The Living Theatre while a student at Yale in 1968, opened a new performing space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, producing a steady stream of innovative works including The Tablets, I and I, The Body of God, Humanity, Rules of Civility, Waste, Echoes of Justice, and The Zero Method. After the closing of the Third Street space in 1993, the company went on to create Anarchia, Utopia and Capital Changes in other New York City venues.
In 1999, with funds from the European Union, they renovated a 1650 Palazzo Spinola in Rocchetta Ligure, Italy and reopened it as the Centro Living Europa, a residence and working space for the company’s European programs. There they created Resistenza, a dramatization of the local inhabitants’ historical resistance to the German occupation of 1943-45. In recent years, the company has also been performing Resist Now!, a play for anti-globalization demonstrations both in Europe and the U.S. A month-long collaboration with local theater artists in Lebanon in 2001 resulted in the creation of a site-specific play about the abuse of political detainees in the notorious former prison at Khiam.
The Living Theatre has opened a new theatre at 21 Clinton Street, presenting The Brig. They continue also to present NO SIR!, a play for the street against military recruitment.
Historical note comes from The Living Theatre website: http://www.livingtheatre.org/history.html.
- Audiovisual materials
- Beck, Julian, 1925-1985
- Born digital
- Experimental theater -- United States -- 20th Century
- Experimental theater -- United States -- 21st century
- Living Theatre (New York, N.Y.)
- Malina, Judith, 1926-2015
- Reznikov, Hanon
- Theater -- New York (State) -- New York
- Theater -- United States -- 20th Century
- Theater -- United States -- 21st century
- Guide to the Living Theatre Records
- by Leigh Golden and Jennifer Meehan
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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