To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, East 4th street between Bowery and Second Avenue metamorphosed into a meeting place of world culture yesterday.
Ellen Stewart died on January 13 2011, but her spirit was felt forceful as ever yesterday.
Master of Ceremonies Carmelita Tropicana brought to the stage Bill de Blasio, holding the citywide office of New York City Public Advocate, City Council member for the Lower East Side Rosie Mendez and Manhattan Community Board 3 district manager Susan Stetzer, who all spoke lovingly and with admiration of Ellen’s accomplishments.
Kathleen Hughes, Assistant Commissioner of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs had the honor of bestowing a name change for Ellen’s beloved block.
“I think Ellen Stewart convinced all of us that she was immortal. She was a friend, a booster, she could be a buster, she was radiant, she was dedicated she was visionary, she was love,” Hughes began her speech.
“Whether ringing her bell on Mount Olympus or in heaven – or both, if you’re a believer in omnipresence – she’s with us still and this simple but tangible municipal honor, a street sign, a ‘way,’ is proof that if we follow the Ellen Stewart Way, care about those around us, spur them on, inspire them, give them beauty, cause them to think deeply about meaning, and art, and thoughtfulness, then Ellen is still with us. And we are here acknowledging her and that perhaps she was an immortal.
For not only did she have the past fifty years in giving us new ways to look at things, new artists that we have come to know, all of those who thought she and La MaMa are on a course for the next fifty years as well. She set that for us. And those artists have inspired other artists to go inspire others and yet others.
What else is that if not a kind of immortality.
Thank you Ellen for showing us the way, I hope you hear our bells on Mount Olympus, or in heaven, or wherever you are on this glorious day and I hope you are ringing yours with us as well.”
Kathleen Hughes proceeded to read a Proclamation from the Office of Mayor Bloomberg:
“Fittingly, this year’s fiftieth anniversary celebration includes the rededication of East 4th Street between Second Avenue and Bowery as Ellen Stewart Way.
Her extraordinary spirit will live on here in La MaMa’s three New York theaters and throughout the world.
Whereas, as we celebrate the founder who made La MaMa great, we also look forward to the theater’s future. Our cultural scene is one that welcomes experimentation and innovation, which is what la MaMa is and always will be.
And we’re confident that La MaMa will always be counted on as a place where artists can explore and challenge themselves.”