Monday, January 15, 2007

The 70's

Mabou Mines was in residence at La MaMa from 1970-1974, directed by Lee Breuer, music composed by Phillip Glass, and company members JoAnne Akalaitis and Ruth Maleeczech.

The ETC Company was in residence at La MaMa from 1970-1974, directed by Wilford Leach and John Braswell. The company toured Denmark, Spain, Italy, Holland, France, and Austria. Wilford Leach went on to be the Artistic Director of the Public Theatre.

La MaMa Chinatown began in the Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street in Chinatown in August 1970 with The Three Travelers Watch the Sunrise, written by Wallace Stevens and directed by Ching Yeh. La MaMa Chinatown was co-founded by La MaMa, Jing-Jyi Wu and Ching Yeh. The company received its training through Lee Breuer of the Mabou Mines, Carlos Ueiveo of Argentina, and Mavis Taylor of Cape Town, South Africa. Out of La MaMa Chinatown grew the Asian Repertory Company, and finally became Pan Asian Repertory Company, directed by Tisa Chang, H.T. Chen and Dancers, directed by H.T. Chen and Dian Dong, also grew out of La MaMa Chinatown.

The Jarboro Troupe, which was first called the GPA Nucleus, began in October 1970 with Street Sounds directed by Hugh Gittens and written by Ed Bullins. The Troupe was named after Katarina Jarboro, an opera star in Harlem, and was directedby Hugh Gittens. The Company toured Italy, Holland, and Germany.

Tokyo Kid Brothers from Japan in residence at La MaMa, created The Golden Bat in 1970 with direction by Higashi Yutaka and music composed by Shimoda Itsuro. The production later had a successful Off-Broadway run at the Sheridan Playhouse.

La MaMa Tel Aviv was created by Ellen Stewart in 1970 in Tel Aviv. It was given first workshop space in a bomb shelter, underneath a big apartment building. It was very prestigious, because it had three different kind of toilets. The shelter was given to Ellen by the Mayor Rabinovitz. The mayor also put in heat and air conditioning, and La MaMa Tel Aviv was the first to receive a grant for its work, and the grant was given by Leah Porat. Ellen sent Martin Brenzell from La MaMa Canada and Kate Carney to train the members of the workshop, and later Rina Yerushalmi, an Israeli, became the Artistic Director. Hanoch Levin was one of its playwrights, and amongst the actors were Victor Attar and Geula Jaffet, who still represent La MaMa Tel Aviv today. It was through La MaMa Tel Aviv that Dr. Feldenchrist came to New York and later did workshops at New York University.

In 1970’s The People Show, a troupe from London came, and Michael Figgis was the Technical Director. The Troupe continued to come many time. Michael Figgis later went on to direct such films as Leaving Las Vegas and Time Code.

The Third World Theatre Institute (TWITAS) of La MaMa, directed by Cecil Guidote with Ellen Stewart, began in the Philippines in 1971. It was further developed in Bombay, India in 1972 and was formalized in Moscow at the ITI Congress. Third World was the name given to developing countries at that time by the United Nations. TWITAS was one of the ways that enabled the indigenous cultures of the Third World to be presented at La MaMa.

East 3rd Street Workshop was directed by Martine Barat, who was a member of La MaMa Paris. The address of the workshop was 236 East 3rd Street, and the building was given to La MaMa by Maurice Kanbar and Paul Levine. Although La MaMa was a non-profit organization, the City of New York tried to make La MaMa responsible for the taxes on the building. In midst of this battle, Ellen learned about the Nuyorican Poets who had no home of their own. She decided that she would agree for the Poets to come into the building. The first two floors had been completely renovated through a grant from the Ford Foundation. The Nuyorican Poets later were allowed to purchase the building in an auction. Ellen decided it was better to let them keep the space because she had 74 East 4th Street, a five-story building on the East Side. The workshop was created to teach children from Harlem music and dance, and to be a workplace for musicians. The workshop for musicians was directed by Charles “Bobo” Shaw, with musicians Lester Bowie, Joe Bowie, Vincent Terrel, and others. The childrens’ workshop was created to bring twelve children from Harlem whose parents were largely unemployed and coming from disadvantaged homes. They received dance and music lessons from the musicians, and the musicians used the space for rehearsal, composing music, etc. Martine is now a world renowned photographer.

In early spring of 1972, Ellen Stewart played a key role in the founding of a contemporary theatre for American Indians. Working with Hanay Geiogamah, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Ms. Stewart participated in the formation of the Native American Theatre ensemble, a 16-member troupe of performing artists representing Indian tribes from all parts of America. She and Mr. Geigomah had first laid out plans for organizing the company in the summer of 1970, when Mr. Geigomah came to New York City to ask for help in putting together a concept, a founding strategy and a training program for the ensemble. “The idea was to establish at theatre of , by and for American Indian people,” said Mr. Geigomah, who is now a professor of theatre and American Indian studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. “Our intention was to form the company in New York, with the help of Ellen and the dozens of incredible theatre artists who were affiliated with La MaMa, then tour the to Indian reservations and urban and tribal communities all across the country.” Mr. Geigomah gives high praise to Ms. Stewart for her contributions in founding the Ensemble. “She helped in every aspect of this project. She took me to the Ford Foundation, to the Rockefeller Foundation, to the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., to raise the money for the project. We succeeded in raising $125,000 for a one-year program of training and production. Ellen helped us to obtain subsidized housing on Second Avenue from the City, helped draw up a comprehensive training for the actors, and guided me in the process of developing my first play, which the company performed in a world premiere at La MaMa on October 25, 1972, which was an incredible experience,” Geiogaham added. Among La Mama veterans Ms. Stewart recruited to train the Indian company members were Liz Swados, john Bottoms, Andrei Serban, John Vacarro, Lee Breuer, Wilford leach, Bill Elliott, Tom O’Horgan and Paul Foster. “She made the entire creative and physical resources of La MaMa available to the Ensemble,” Geiogamah noted. “And it paid off in a most wonderful way.” In his review of the company’s first bill, Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times: “They offer a new kind of theater, and I welcome it.” Many other critics joined in with praise for the company’s inaugural season. Keeping its promise to take its work to the Indian communities, the company undertook a six-week tour of Indian reservations immediately after the two-week premiere season, with Ms. Stewart accompanying the company on part of the itinerary. A year later, in Decemger 1973, American Indian Theatre Ensemble presented its second La MaMa season, and this was followed by additional national and international tours. The company re-located to Oklahoma in 1975. the 16 original members went on to participate in the founding of six new American Indian companies and performing projects, and its legacy at La MaMa has since been recognized as the foundation of the contemporary American Indian theatre movement. American Indian theatre ensemble’s first season included: Body Indian by Hanay Geiogamah, and Na Haaz Zaan by Navajo playwright with actor Robert Shorty. The troupe’s second season (1973) included Foghorn by Hanay Geiogamah and Coon Cons Coyote created by the entire company. Mr. Geiogamah’s plays were published in 1980 under the title of New Native American Drama by the University of Oklahoma Press, and that first-ever collection of American Indian plays is dedicated to Ms. Stewart.

The Trocadero Gloxinia Ballet Company, an all-male ballet company, was a resident company of La MaMa and was created by Larry Ree. The first performance of the company was November 29, 1972


In March 1975 Bill Duke directed Garrett Morris in the Secret Place.

In April 1976 Meredith Monk created Quarry for the La MaMa Annex Space.



In Febuary 1978 the first play of the Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein called International Stud was presented at La MaMa, followed by the plays Fugue in a Nursery and Widows and Children First. Later Torch Song Trilogy opened on Broadway.

Ping Chong and Company became a resident company of La MaMa in March 1978 with the production of Humboldt’s Current.


In February 1979 Tadeusz Kantor and the Cricot 2 Theatre came to La MaMa and presented Dead Class. All of Kantor’s plays were subsequently presented at La MaMa. They were Dead Class, Wielopole, Wielopole, Let the Artist Die, I Shall Never Return and Today is My Birthday. Kantor allowed Ellen Stewart to give the name I Shall Never Return to that play.

In May 1979 Pieter-Dirk Uys from South Africa presented God’s Forgotten at La MaMa.


This was Pieter Dirk Uys’ first American appearance.

2 comments:

steve1956 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve1956 said...

Hi. The Touring Company also came to the Edinburgh Festival in (I think) 1975. The play was Women of Troy based on Euripides The Trojan Women and I think the Company also did Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle. The venue was a large gymnasium building one block away from the Royal Mile and I remember some of the audience of the time were perturbed because they had to walk around as part of the crowd! Edinburgh audiences of the time expected to sit down and watch.
I was a wet behind the ears 19 year old graphic design student working backstage during my college vacation. I have many fond memories of you Ellen and the company and at the time had seriously considered running away to NY with you! I remember you were proud of your Scottish connections and hope you still are.