Good News for the Living Theatre

Leaving town for a few days, so may not be able to blog until Monday. This morning, quickly, wanted to draw your attention to something that took more than 20 years of hard work to achieve: the Living Theatre’s new digs. Here’s Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov’s happy post about this. I am particularly thrilled that next spring they will stage a new production of The Brig — a play that is as, if not more, relevant today than it was in 1963.

The Living Theatre has signed a 10-year lease on the 3500 sq. ft. basement of a new residential building under construction at 21 Clinton Street, between Houston and Stanton Streets on New York’s Lower East Side. The company expects to move into the completed space in early 2007. Plans are to open the new Living Theatre with a production of The Brig by Kenneth H. Brown, first presented at The Living Theatre at 14th St. and Sixth Avenue in 1963.

The Clinton Street theater will be the company’s first permanent home since the closing of The Living Theatre on Third Street at Avenue C in 1993. The decision to return to the Lower East Side reflects the company’s continuing faith in the neighborhood as a vibrant center where the needs of the city’s poorer people confront the ideas of the experimenters in art and social organization who have settled in the area. The presence of newly-arrived upscale shops and venues only underlines the political contradictions which bristle through the crowded, narrow streets

The Brig, written by a veteran who survived incarceration in a U.S. Marine Corps Brig during the 1950’s, is a chilling portrait of the brutality of military prisons. The original production was the winner of the OBIE Award for the Best Play of 1963 and Jonas Mekas’ extrarodinary film of the production, The Brig, won the Leone D’Oro for Best Documentary at the Venice Film Festival the following year. The play had great impact in New York and then toured extensively in Europe until 1967.

The prominence of U.S. Military Prisons in various locations around the world at the beginning of the 21st century gives new relevance to this play. The perverse logic behind the treatment of prisoners within the martial system is made stunningly clear in Brown’s play, which was the first production staged by The Living Theatre after director Judith Malina read M.C. Richard’s as-yet-unpublished English translation of The Theater and its Double by Antonin Artaud, whose radical approach to articulating a theatrical relationship between cruelty and transcendence transformed The Brig into a physical experience of pain and release unlike any conventional drama.

Plans are developing for a repertory program as well as musical, dance, poetry and political events. Watch for coming announcements of the projects due to flower at our new home. We look forward to seeing you there.

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