On May 25, at Le Pavé d’Orsay, a narrow empty space tucked away in Paris’ 7th, we attended the Introductory Cocktail and Press hour celebrating the return of The Living Theatre to Paris after a twenty year absence. The following weekend, in collaboration with the Bilingual Acting Workshop, The Living Theatre would hold a workshop and two performances at Paris’s Studio International des Arts de la Scène called “A Day in the Life of Paris,” taught by Judith Malina.
With nearly one hundred productions performed in 8 languages in 28 countries on 5 continents, the Living Theatre, founded in 1947 by Judith Malina (now almost 85 years old) and her late husband Julian Beck, is the longest running producing theatre company in the United States. Alumni and fans include legends such as Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Martin Sheen, and countless others over its long history, many of whom still remain actively involved with the theatre. Through her work with The Living Theatre, Malina has won 8 Obie awards as director and producer, and in 2003 she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
But what is particularly fascinating, and what commands respect, is her long time dedication to her craft and to her Brechtian-inspired dramaturgy which she and her team not only preach, but practice as well. The discussion with Ms. Malina, Associate Artistic Director Brad Burgess and Living Theatre veteran Tom Walker, was dominated by the theatre’s relationship to both political and social engagement. There was a lot of talk of nonviolent anarchist revolution, especially by Mr. Walker who spoke of utopian ideals, of challenging society’s mores, however uncomfortable they might be, in order to initiate a dialogue of whys and why-nots. “We are in the hope business, not the depression business,” he says at one point. The theatre’s goal, it seems, is to engage the actors and the audience in these issues both on- and off-stage and to instigate positive change.
It should be said that Ms. Malina herself has quite the résumé of political engagement. On May 13, 1968, she was among those who built the first barricade on the rue Gay-Lussac in Paris, and as Brad Burgess mentioned, she had been arrested in twelve different countries, all related to political activism.
Founded by Amy Werba in 1995 in Paris, the Bilingual Acting Workshop stresses the importance of intercultural ensemble performance, and though the courses are taught in English, students are encouraged to perform in their native languages. From what we learned, this allows for an open dialogue regarding different acting methods. During the discussion, points were made about the differences between New York methods, as taught by Lee Strasberg, for example, and a more text-centric French style of theater. And now, as Jeremy Coffman explained to us, with the Living Theatre’s workshop in Paris, French students (or Americans, British, or anyone, really) will have the opportunity to sample this particular facet of experimental New York theatre.
“This is a time of inspiration, to be here. To do a workshop with young people is very important. We will learn from them. . . what is happening, what is new. In the workshops we learn just as much as we teach,” says Malina.
Check the ÉCU blog in a couple of days for a review of the final performance.
For more information:
Bilingual Acting Workshop : http://www.bilingualacting.com
Living Theatre Conservatory : http://www.livingtheatreconservatory.org
The Living Theatre : http://www.livingtheatre.org
Thank you to:
Serge Ricco, Photographer
Jeremy Coffman, Associate Director of the BAW
Sei Shiomi, Associate Artistic Director of the BAW
Elizabeth Wautlet, Intern at the BAW