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The Living Theatre

Giugno 2006
Il messaggio pacifista del Living Theatre ha le sue radici nel ‘68 newyorkese, ma forse ha ancora qualcosa da dire ai giovani d’oggi. Ne parliamo con la fondatrice storica, che a 80 anni ha conservato intatto l’idealismo di quegli anni.

di Lorenza Cerbini

File audio:

The Living Theatre
The Living Theatre
Judith Malina
Judith Malina

Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)


The Living Theatre is an American institution. Founded in 1947, in order to promote “a beautiful, non-violent anarchist revolution,” it became a key part of New York’s alternative “Off Broadway” scene. In spite of its artistic importance, the Living Theatre is currently without a New York home. This is in contrast to Italy, where, since 1999, it has regularly staged productions at the “Centro Living Europa” in Rocchetta Ligure in Piedmont. These productions have covered the partisan resistance, as well as more contemporary subjects. Today the company, which is run by Judith Malina and her husband Hanon Reznikov, divides its time between Italy and the USA.  Malina, who emigrated to America from Germany, founded the company with her then husband, Julian Beck, who was to die in 1985. This month Judith Malina celebrates her 80th birthday. When she met with Speak Up in New York, we asked her whether audiences were more receptive in Italy or the United States:

Judith Malina (Standard American/ mild German accent):

That’s very hard to say. In Italy we find love and appreciation and understanding of the meaning of our work, but the United States, I think, is more in need of a positive philosophy, of a hopeful viewpoint, of an anarchist possibility. I think that in some ways it’s much better in Italy, but in some ways it’s very important here (in the USA - ed).


We then asked her whether today’s youngsters understand the Living Theatre’s message:

Judith Malina:

I think, more than understand it, they have taken up that struggle and are teaching us now, what is important, I think the people that are in the streets, creating street theater... we participated in a fantastic manifestation in Genoa, which is near where we live, in Rocchetta Ligure, and there were 200 groups that were doing different kinds of street theater, they had puppets, they had costumes, they had drums, they chanted, they sang, they danced, they had colored... cloth, they had banners. ?It was all street theater and it was all fundamentally anarchistic and peaceful. Now, there were certainly groups that were very violent, unfortunately one of these violent groups, the Black Block, called themselves anarchists, which was very painful for us peaceful anarchists, but there was a spirit of empowerment of the strength of this generation to really make changes that’s very inspiring. I’m very inspired by the young generation, especially those people, say, under 20.


In conclusion, we asked Judith Malina whether she had any regrets in life:

Judith Malina:

That I haven’t brought about the beautiful, non-violent anarchist revolution, that there are still wars and I haven’t been able to be part of the movement that stops them. I want to say that I haven’t been able to stop them, and that sounds terribly hubristic, except that I think everybody should say that, everybody should ask, “Why haven’t I been able to stop the wars? Why do I allow this terrible situation to continue and why am I incapable of changing certain basic situations, like the fact that there are thousands of people sitting in refugee camps starving, when there is enough food for them and there is enough transportation to bring them  food and bedding and clothing and housing?


It exists, but we have such a terrible system that we can’t make that step of doing what pretty much everybody wants to do, but we’re inside a social structure that won’t let us stop killing each other, that won’t let us feed the people we want to feed, that there are thousands of babies dying all the time, of hunger, and there’s enough food. This is what I think the future holds for us, to solve these problems, and, where I haven’t solved them, I feel personally responsible, but I think socially, personally, and I think everybody should put themselves in a situation where they say, “Why can’t I change this horror?”

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it has... staged - ha allestito

who was to die - che sarebbe morto.

a hopeful viewpoint - una prospettiva ottimista.

youngsters - i giovani.

they have taken up that struggle - hanno intrapreso quella battaglia.

puppets - burattini.

drums - percussioni.

they chanted - scandivano slogan.

colored cloth - stoffe colorate.

banners - striscioni.

painful - doloroso.

empowerment - presa di coscienza delle proprie possibilità.

I haven’t brought about - non ho realizzato.

hubristic - arrogante.

starving - morendo di fame.