Posts Tagged ‘ Ellen Stewart ’

Mayor Bloomberg Speaks at La MaMa Fiftieth Anniversary Gala

Mayor Bloomberg spoke yesterday at La MaMa’s Fiftieth Anniversary Gala at the Ellen Stewart Theater on East 4th Street, the block that is now renamed “Ellen Stewart Way.”
Bloomberg talked about his first encounter in 2006 with Ellen’s driving visionary force, which made him hand over the building that was formerly called “the Annex” for one dollar (1$)!
He also announced that – at the instruction of Kate D. Levin, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) – the city will support La MaMa with 2 million dollars for capital improvements on four facilities (the original La MaMa building, the Ellen Stewart Theater, La MaMa Galleria on 1st Street and the rehearsal studio building on 47 Great Jones Street). This not only to perpetuate La MaMa’s own activities in theater, the visual arts and education, but also to support La MaMa’s guiding light function in a “Naturally Occurring Cultural District.”
“Theater, including off-off-Broadway,” said the mayor, “is a major industry in our city. In fact, on-Broadway theaters have a quarter-billion-dollar impact on our economy every year.” And that is why he thinks investing in La MaMa is “a sound investment in the city’s future.”
The evening was full of wonderful theatrical surprises, like Estelle Parsons and John Kelly in a beautifully executed mother-and-son scene of Harvey Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy,’ touching video messages from Harvey Keitel and Sam Shepard, who received the first-ever Ellen Stewart Award, a scene from Wallace Shawn’s zany ‘Hotel Play’ with a million characters young and old flocking to the stage including Shawn himself as the bell-boy, and a vibrant new piece by the inimitable Elizabeth Swados, a ‘La MaMa Cantata’ set to Ellen Stewart’s own words. MC’d by La MaMa old-timers Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches, the evening was a reconfirmation that La MaMa’s future is secured for at least another fifty years.

La MaMa 50 World Block Party Day

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.”

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.

Ellen Stewart and Ritsaert ten Cate. The mirror behind Ritsaert ten Cate has a quote from Heiner Müller "Enduring Is Also A Choice"

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