Mickery and La MaMa
The histories of Ellen Stewart’s La MaMa E.T.C. (Experimental Theater Club) in New York and the Mickery Theatre in Amsterdam are intertwined. Both La MaMa and the Mickery provided a home base for experimenters in the theatre from the sixties onwards. Just like with La MaMa, once you had worked at the Mickery, you were part of that family, you belonged to a group of people that shared a very specific collective history. La MaMa and the Mickery became the wellsprings of an internationally branched-out network of creators in the theatre.
Mickery was the brainchild of Ritsaert ten Cate, a rebel who found a cause in the budding avant-garde theater scene of the ‘60’s. With money inherited from his textile-manufacturing family, Ritsaert ten Cate set up shop at a farmhouse in Loenersloot, about 13 miles outside Amsterdam. He was an avid collector of “arte povera” and used the vast barn space as a gallery. (The parallels with Ellen’s First Street La MaMa Galleria are clear.) When Ellen Stewart got wind of Ritsaert’s new theatre space, she called him up to establish a tour date and residency for her La MaMa troupe, wedged between performances at Eugenio Barba’s theatre in Holstebrö and the Edinburgh Festival in 1967.
Her handwritten confirmation said:
“We will arrive with 3 buses, you will pay the actors a fee of $60 for each performance, plus a per diem, and you will make sure that they can sleep somewhere. We will perform Tom Paine, Part One, and we will perform each play two times. We will also need to rehearse. Thank you, Ellen Stewart”
During their two week-residency in Loenersloot, the company performed the first part of Tom Paine, while Tom O’Horgan readied Part Two with them for the Edinburgh Festival. Some actors slept in the farmhouse and others were hosted by neighbors. The Dutch press flocked to the Mickery barn and was unanimously flabbergasted by the spectacle, resulting in hundreds of theatergoers and curiosity seekers following in their tracks.
Over the years La MaMa revisited the Mickery – which in the early ‘70’s had relocated to an abandoned cinema in the center of Amsterdam – with 12 productions.
Unlike La MaMa E.T.C., still going strong and in its fiftieth anniversary year, Mickery closed its activities after some 800 productions in 1991.
Ellen Stewart and Ritsaert ten Cate have passed away, but not before passing on the commitment and passion to experiment.