People in New York City and around the world this weekend are celebrating the remarkable life of Judith Malina, the avant-garde theater legend who influenced generations of young artists. The co-founder of the groundbreaking Living Theatre, which was located on the Lower East Side from 2007-2013, died yesterday at the age of 88. She had been battling lung cancer.
In an obituary, the New York Times recounts the Living Theatre’s creation in 1947 by Malina and Julian Beck, her husband:
Ms. Malina was tireless and passionate in advancing the idea that theater can be, and should be, a blunt force for cultural change. She and Mr. Beck… considered themselves anarchists and pacifists, and their productions were statements as much as performances… As time went on, their shows… were staged, usually by Ms. Malina, with mounting radical fervor and an application of techniques that tended to sublimate artistic craft in favor of political passion and to blur the distinction between performance and real life. Living Theater productions through the 1960s were increasingly characterized by improvisation, and troupe members addressed spectators directly, encouraging them to participate vocally as if contributing to a spontaneously evolving script and even exhorting them to join the troupe onstage or exit the theater and take the performance into the streets.
In an email message to the Times, Malina’s son, Garrick Beck, said the Living Theatre will forge ahead and continue to produce new works. He will be joined in running the company by Brad Burgess, serving as artistic director, and Tom Walker.
This past December, at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, Malina received a lifetime achievement award from the LES-based Mark DeGarmo dance organization. She gave a stirring speech about the importance of political theater to the young artists assembled in one of CSV’s performance spaces.
A few years ago, Malina told us what she loved about the Lower East Side:
In the past 24 hours, tributes have been rolling in from far and wide:
— BAM (@BAM_Brooklyn) April 10, 2015
The great Judith Malina has passed away. We mourn her loss, and celebrate her amazing life and achievement…. http://t.co/R9XET9tGAy
— undergroundzero (@ugznyc) April 11, 2015
Judith Maline Died this morning. Long live the beautiful peaceful nonviolent anarchist revolution! — Penny Arcade (@PennyArcadeNYC) April 10, 2015
RIP Judith Malina: inspiration, poetic revolutionary, mensch. She taught generations how art & politics go together. pic.twitter.com/hg3ujidH5A
— Alisa Solomon (@SolomonAlisa) April 10, 2015