“Anita [Pallenberg] and I went to Rome that spring and summer , between the bust and the trials, where Anita played in Barbarella, with Jane Fonda, directed by Jane’s husband Roger Vadim. Anita’s Roman world centered around the Living Theatre, the famous anarchist-pacifist troupe run by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, which had been around for years but was coming into its own in this period of activism and street demos. The Living Theatre was particularly insane, hard-core, its players often getting arrested on indecency charges—they had a play [“Paradise Now”] in which they recited lists of social taboos at the audience, for which they usually got a night in the slammer. Their main actor, a handsome black man named Rufus Collins, was a friend of Robert Fraser, and they were a part of the Andy Warhol and Gerard Malanga connection. And so it all went round in a little avant-garde elite, as often as not drawn together by a taste for drugs, of which the LT was a center. And drugs were not copious in those days. The Living Theatre was intense, but it had glamour. There were all those beautiful people attached, like Donyale Luna, who was the first famous black model in America, and Nico and all those girls who were hovering around. Donyale Luna was with one of the guys from the theater. Talk about a tiger, a leopard, one of the most sinuous chicks I’ve ever seen. Not that I tried or anything. She obviously had her own agenda. And all backlit by the beauty of Rome, which gave it an added intensity…”
Judith Malina and Julian Beck, directors of the Living Theatre
“WE WANT THE WORLD, AND WE WANT IT NOW”
In 1968, after years of self-imposed exile in Europe, the Living Theatre triumphantly returned to America with their theatrical breakthrough “Paradise Now.”
The sensational production, involving group nudity, marijuana smoking, advocacy of a non-violent anarchist revolution, continuous interaction with the audience and something just this side of a full-on public orgy, received attention from those far outside the normal theater-going public.
Doors singer Jim Morrison and poet Michael McClure actively participated in performances of ‘Paradise Now’ at the [San Francisco Bay Area’s] Nourse Auditorium…. McClure brought Morrison to visit at [Beat poet/City Light Books founder Lawrence] Ferlinghetti’s office. Julian [Beck, of the Living Theatre} was on and off the telephone to New York, frantically worried about the money to get the troupe back to Europe where engagements has been scheduled. Quietly, Morrison offered to assist with money.
Morrison–who had read Artaud and Ginsberg in college–saw himself as a revolutionary figure. Agreeing that repression was the chief social evil in America and the cause of a general pathology, he was typical of the sectors of support The Living Theatre had received in America. [The Doors’] long improvisational song ‘When the Music’s Over’ proclaims, as in ‘Paradise Now,’ ‘We want the world, and we want it now.’ Morrison had seen every performance in Los Angeles and followed the company up to San Francisco.
“On the day after his visit with McClure, Jim Morrison gave Julian [Beck] $2,500 for the trip home…”
Two years in the making, beautifully assembled with love by Will Swofford, Arthur Magazine’s PARADISE NOW: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre features a DVD of rare, never-before-distributed films and revolutionary multimedia documents from the production, plus two double-sided posters and a detailed 40-page booklet. This set is worth far more than $29.95, but that’s what we’re charging. We made a single edition of 1,000 in 2008. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Arthur Magazine proudly presents PARADISE NOW: The Living Theatre in Amerika, a DVD/36-page booklet/double-sided poster featuring rare, never-before-distributed films from The Living Theatre‘s historic and influential ’68-’69 American tour.
Here is the trailer preview teaser, which may not be safe for work but is Totally Safe For Life:
In 1968 the The Living Theatre, an anarchist collective theater troupe led by Julian Beck and Judith Malina, triumphantly returned to America from years of self-imposed exile in Europe. Their new production, which has already taken Europe by storm, was Paradise Now, an intense, challenging distillation and enactment of every principle that the Living Theatre held dear.
“Life, revolution and theater are three words for the same thing: an unconditional NO to the present society,” said Julian Beck. The staging of Paradise Now—a series of provocative scenarios involving group nudity, ideological declamations and the like—attempted to dissolve the boundaries of human interactions, forging a new harmony between the actors and audience. Of this process, Beck wrote:
“Collective creation is the secret weapon of the people… This play is a voyage from the many to the one and from the one to the many. It’s a spiritual voyage and a political voyage, a voyage for the actors and the spectators. The play is a vertical ascent toward permanent revolution, leading to revolutionary action here and now. The revolution of which the play speaks is the beautiful, non-violent, anarchist revolution. The purpose of the play is to lead to a state of being in which non-violent revolutionary action is possible.”
The result of this shared voyage was the visionary, flamboyant creation of a temporary anarchist collective—free from the enslavements of war, violence, the State, money and the self. Audiences and critics were alternately enraptured and repulsed, radicalized and shocked. Was this the end of theater? Or the beginning of something else? Whatever it was, it was unforgettable, and it rippled into the increasingly volatile culture of the time via the subsequent work of people like the Doors’ Jim Morrison, who famously followed the Living Theatre’s “Paradise Now” around California and helped fund their work.
Director Marty Topp’s film of “Paradise Now,” produced by Ira Cohen, featuring music by the MC5, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Apache Indians and others, is an intense, unforgettable 40-minute film that documents what happened when the Living Theatre staged Paradise Now in America. We have packaged it with “Emergency!”, director Gwen Brown’s excellent but little-seen 30-minute 1968 documentary on the Living Theatre; a double-sided poster; an elaborate 36-page booklet of Living Theatre archival materials; exclusive video interviews with Living Theatre members Judith Malina, Julian Beck and Hanon Raznikov; the complete Paradise Now! script; and much more.
MAY 3, 2009 HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
*St. Helena, daughter of old King Cole and mother of Constantine, finds the True Cross in the year 326 in Mexico.
*Masons take off work, mount a cross on flowers and streamers of the wall, and set off firecrackers.
*Belgium: Procession of the Holy Blood, followed by fun.
Arthur Magazine proudly presents PARADISE NOW: A Collective Creation of The Living Theatre DVD
In 1968, the Living Theatre troupe returned to America with that unforgettable psychedelic mystery play based on the Kabbalah and the I Ching–PARADISE NOW. They had become a traveling commune, the not-so-secret agents of a comsic alternative. Wherever they went they turned whole cities upside down just by their presence. We would never be the same.
From THE LIVING THEATRE: ART, EXILE AND OUTRAGE by John Tytell (Grove Press, 1995):
“Doors singer Jim Morrison and poet Michael McClure actively participated in performances of Paradise Now at the [San Francisco Bay Area’s] Nourse Auditorium…. McClure brought Morrison to visit at [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti’s office. Julian [Beck, of the Living Theatre] was on and off the telephone to New York, frantically worried about the money to get the troupe back to Europe where engagements has been scheduled. Quietly, Morrison offered to assist with money.
“Morrison–who had read Artaud and Ginsberg in college–saw himself as a revolutionary figure. Agreeing that repression was the chief social evil in America and the cause of a general pathology, he was typical of the sectors of support The Living Theatre had received in America. His long improvisational song ‘When the Music’s Over’ was a basic statement of apocalypse. Another of his songs proclaims, as in Paradise Now, ‘We want the world, and we want it now.’ Morrison had seen every performance in Los Angeles and followed the company up to San Francisco.
“On the day after his visit with McClure, Jim Morrison have Julian twenty-five hundred dollars for the trip home…”
“PARADISE NOW: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre” features rare, never-before-distributed films and revolutionary multimedia documents from The Living Theatre’s historic and influential ’68-’69 American tour. A fulminating art-meets-life installation brought to you by Arthur Magazine in collaboration with The Living Theatre and Universal Mutant, Inc.
“I’ve always felt I belonged on the Lower East Side,” the 80-year-old avant-garde theater doyenne Judith Malina said recently as she sat on the terrace of her new apartment on Clinton Street. Several floors below, a half-dozen volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the 100-seat basement space that is the newest incarnation of her baby, the Living Theater. The opening night of “The Brig,” the first show there, was just hours away, but Ms. Malina made time to reminisce.
“The only time I lived down here,” she said, “was when I spent 30 days in the Women’s House of Detention.” That incarceration, for refusing to take shelter during an air-raid drill in 1957, was the second of many in a career that made her a pillar of the leftist cultural movement. Now, she said, “I really feel, finally, I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
And it took only a half-century. In 1947 Ms. Malina and her husband, the painter Julian Beck (she still refers to him by his full name, guru-like, though they were married for nearly 40 years), founded the Living Theater, an ensemble dedicated to challenging artistic and political conventions. For two decades they performed avant-garde and activist classics (Gertrude Stein, Lorca, Brecht) and naturalistic quasi-happenings. Audience interaction was the point, and confrontations, nudity, onstage and offstage sex and frequent police intervention were as much the marks of a good show as an ovation. (Ms. Malina, trained as an actress, did much of her best work with her arresting officers, she said.)
But the company was plagued with administrative and logistical problems. In 1963 its 14th Street theater was closed mid-run for tax evasion. Though the charge was eventually dropped, the couple’s antics at the trial, which they treated as an opportunity for anarchist performance, earned them a jail sentence for contempt of court.
The hoopla made them a cause célèbre but was not enough to keep them in New York. They continued to perform and teach, in various rented and public spaces in the United States and in Europe, but the theater has not had a dedicated building in New York for nearly 15 years.
The cheerful, modernist new Living Theater (the building was originally meant to be a hip restaurant, complete with two-story waterfall) seems at home among the neighborhood’s boutiques and bistros. And so, in a way, does its owner.
With witchy dyed black hair (she played the grandmother in the first “Addams Family” movie), ’60s-heavy eyeliner, a flowy black and orange pantsuit, black sneakers and big jewelry, Ms. Malina looks younger than her age. Her partner, Hanon Reznikov, 56, brought her a cup of coffee, though she hardly needed it. Sitting with one leg tucked under her, she frequently seemed moved enough by her own passion to nearly rock right out of her lawn chair.
“I just need to find sources for all the energy I get from what I see and hear around me,” she said. “I’m very inspired by the younger generation today. They understand, for instance, the balance between art and politics in a way that we had to struggle to understand it. I think it’s a good time for political theater.”
And does she still consider herself an anarchist or a pacifist or …?
“Still?” Ms. Malina said. “I’m just beginning! Still!?” She harrumphed and continued: “Each day starts with, ‘How much can I do today to get toward that B.N.V.A.R.’? You know what a B.N.V.A.R. is? It’s the beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution. That’s what we work for every day.”
The focus of the Living Theater has changed little since the days when B.N.V.A.R. might have been a household phrase. “As long as you hear the outcry of the needy, how can you not respond?” Ms. Malina asked. “If I was a shoemaker, I’d try to figure out how everybody could have shoes, but I’m an artist and I want to convey hope in a difficult situation.”
Her method today is the same as it was then: “The Brig,” Kenneth H. Brown’s stark drama about a military prison, was one of the Living Theater’s most successful works when it was first staged in 1963. Given the play’s resonance with news about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, it seemed a natural choice for the inaugural production in the new space, said Ms. Malina, who directed.
“I thought it would be one of the plays that we should do because it would encourage revolution,” she said. “It’s tragic that 30 years later it’s still valid. It shouldn’t be anymore.”
Four years ago she decided to realize her lifelong dream of having a theater with a living space above it. She sold the eight-room West End Avenue apartment where she had lived with Mr. Beck, who died in 1985, and their two children, and put the money into the Clinton Street space, where she has a 20-year lease but no other financing.
The reception from the theatrical world has been warm. “Tony Kushner promised us a new play,” Mr. Reznikov said. “Jim Rado, who wrote ‘Hair,’ just gave us a new play.” And Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater, who has been promoting “The Brig” there, sent a bouquet of flowers, with a black card signed, “In socialist solidarity.”
But it remains to be seen whether socialist solidarity will fill seats. The opening-night crowd was mostly the couple’s gray-haired (and ponytailed) friends, and it had the air of a leftist reunion.
Still, Ms. Malina’s drive remains undimmed. She and Mr. Reznikov were elated to find a building with an elevator to ferry her between the apartment and the theater — “so she can direct until she’s 105,” Mr. Reznikov said.
She still begins her day by writing in a diary. Two collections of her entries — one spanning 1947 to 1957, and the other, “The Enormous Despair,” a memoir of her American homecoming in 1968 — have been published so far. In their three-room apartment, still sparsely furnished, save for dozens of boxes with labels like “thesis + texts,” Ms. Malina sits at a small wooden desk with a green-shaded lamp, editing poetry and working on a book about the director Erwin Piscator, a progenitor of Brecht’s. (She began it in 1945, when she studied with Piscator.)
With the help of one employee, she runs the theater alongside Mr. Reznikov, who took over where Mr. Beck left off, personally and professionally. Among her other projects is preparing for the Living Theater’s next show, a two-woman play based on a Doris Lessing novel. Ms. Malina expects to star.
What does she like to do for fun?
“I like to make love,” Ms. Malina said. “Study. I don’t do much else except study, make love and run the theater.”
“I mean,” she added, “we’re big love bugs. We think that’s the answer: Make love, not war.”