Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The 60's

La MaMa was created in 1961...

In August 1962 Michael Locascio wrote A Corner of the Morning. It was La MaMa’s first original play to be performed.

Harold Pinter allowed La MaMa to produce his work in America for the first time in October 1962. The play was The Room, directed by John Chace.

In December 1962 La MaMa produced its first opera, created and conducted by Anthony Keller. The production was entitled The Flood.

Other original plays in the first season were Head Hunting by Korean playwright Pagoon Kang Wouk, Lazy Baby Susan by Leonard Melfi, The Collector by Kate Hoffman, Rococco Joker written by James Eliason and directed by Carlo Grasson. In that first season La MaMa did 17 plays.

Bruce Kessler in January 1963 wrote and directed Son of Fricka with original music composed and played by Gary William Friedman who later went on to write music for Broadway.

Tom Eyen and the Theater of the Eye began in 1964. Its first production was Little Miss Frustrata, or The Dirty Little Girl with the Paper Rose Stuck in Her Head is Demented. The company toured Italy. In May 1969, The Dirtiest Show in Town was presented which later played the West End in London. Tom Eyen later wrote Dreamgirls for Broadway.

In March 1964 The Allegation Impromtu by Lawrence Ferlinggetti was performed at La MaMa at 82 2nd Avenue when the space was closed by the Fire Department. Ellen went to jail.

In June 1964 La MaMa had its first Coffeehouse Theatre Festival. The plays performed were The Recluse by Paul Foster and Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee by David Starkweather.

In August 1964 the Bogota Troupe played Paul Foster’s Hurrah for the Bridge which became Que Viva El Puente in Spanish at the Sheridan Playhouse. It was the first Off Broadway performance by a Latin American Troupe in Spanish.

In April 1965 La MaMa presented America Harrah by Jean Claude van Italie which later became Motel. This show opened our season and was directed by Michael Kahn. The La MaMa Troupe, directed by Tom O’Horgan and Ross Alexander, began in 1965 and toured England, France, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Austria, Italy, Germany, and the Virgin Islands with 22 plays. Tom O’Horgan later went on to direct Hair on Broadway.

In August 1965 the National Educational Television filmed Three Plays from La MaMa. They were Pavanne by Jean Claude Van Italie, Fourteen Hundred Thousand by Sam Shepard, and The Recluse by Paul Foster. Tom O’Horgan directed the entire program.

Ruth York was a patron of La MaMa, and she helped in La MaMa’s first tour in 1965 to Denmark. She was greatly beloved for her help in the underground during the Holocaust where she spent her whole fortune helping the Jewish movement. She was related to the Fischer Verlag Publishing House in Frankfurt, Germany. She was responsible for our first publications of plays in Germany, and, in fact, the world. Ruth died of a heart attack in the lobby of the Broadway Theatre during a matinee of Peter Brook’s production of Marat/Sade. She died in Ellen Stewart’s arms crying out, “Omm!” Ellen ran into the theatre shouting for a doctor. The audience thought she was part of the play. In February 1966, Lullaby for a Dying Gaul was performed which was written by Ruth Landshoff Yorck and directed by Walter Leyden Brown.

In October 1965 John Thompson directed The Typist by Murray Schisgal which was performed by La MaMa’s Theatre of the Blind. These performances with the Blind and workshops for blind artists were stopped by the public who expressed their opinion to the Lighthouse that the work was cruel and inhumane for the Blind to walk on a stage.

In October 1965 the Open Theatre came into residence at La MaMa. Their first show was called Open Theatre Improvisations.

La MaMa Plexus began in 1966 under the direction of Stanley Rosenberg and later was directed by Joel Zwick. Joel Zwick went on to direct many different films, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Fat Albert, as well as various television sitcoms, including Lavene and Shirley and Happy Days.

In May 1966 Viet Rock by Megan Terry was presented at La MaMa. It was the first anti-Vietnam play.

Larry Sacharow conceived and directed Concept with the Daytop Company in November 1967; the production went on to Broadway. The revenues of the Broadway production enabled the Daytop Village to develop into the institution it is today. Larry Sacharow is now the Dean of the Drama Department of Fordham University.

In 1968 La MaMa did the first International Theatre Festival at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Among the productions were: Megan Terry’s Massachusetts

Trust, directed by Tom O’Horgan and with the La MaMa Troupe; Max Stafford-Clark and his company from Edinburgh with a play by Stanley Eveling; Jerome Savary and his company from Paris with The Labyrinth by Fernando Arrabal.

The Playhouse of the Ridiculous, founded and directed by John Vaccaro, first presented at La MaMa in June 1969 with Cockstrong. The company toured countries, such as Holland, Belgium, France, and Switzerland.