Thursday, January 13, 2011

R.I.P. ELLEN STEWART. Our MaMa of La MaMa. Everyone has a story about Ellen. I met her first in 1975 or so, when I was visiting New York as a budding performer and choreographer. We met numerous times since then. I would catch her as she walked her dog, since I was just around the corner. If you wanted to talk to her, you had to do that. Meet her "by chance" in the morning dog walk time slot, and approach her for a gig, an idea, a festival, a chat, a kiss, a hug. Whatever it took. We fought. Everyone fought with her. We had one big one in 1989, but I went back. I brought projects from various corners of the world to Ellen. Between Ellen Stewart and Beate Gordon (who became my "real" boss at Asia Society in 1982), I had two Mamas, who I wanted to be like when I grew up. I now feel obligated even more than ever, to continue to work, across borders and across so-called enemy lines. Ellen, your spirit will continue to move me forever. I am blessed to have known you and learned from you.

here is the obit from Time Out NY today:

Ellen Stewart, who died this morning at the age of 91, was a force of culture. When she founded La MaMa back in 1961, Off-Off Broadway theater was in its infancy; in the 50 years since, she has been a vital agent in its growth and expansion, and up until just a few years ago she could still be seen regularly at her East Village drama center. A lifelong internationalist, Stewart helped introduce America to the work of Jerzy Grotowski and his Eastern European contemporaries in the 1960s, and La MaMa's archives are like a geological cross-section of theater innovation. Adrienne Kennedy, Israel Horovitz, Tom O'Horgan, Andrei Serban, Charles Ludlam, Elizabeth Swados, Mac Wellman, Ping Chong, John Kelly, Robert Patrick, Julie Bovasso, Taylor Mac, the Talking Band and Mabou Mines are just a few of the countless artists she helped wean in her peerless career. Stewart racked up many awards, including Japan's Praemium Imperiale and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, but her greatest honor lay and lies in the incalculable influence of her passion. Off-Off Broadway has lost its mother, but her legacy is everywhere to be found.

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