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Best known for its communally created productions, awash in anarchistic themes, revolutionary cries and audience participation, the troupe has performed in venues across the globe. But running the place cost $20,000 a month, and despite contributions from Al Pacino and Yoko Ono, and the $800,000 generated from the sale of Beck’s art collection, the theater simply could not make it.
“You cannot cover your expenses with box office,” Malina said. “Every other theater gets some kind of funding, but we didn’t get a nickel from anybody —not the corporations, not the government. They don’t want to fund an anarchist group that wants to abolish money. In the ’60s and ’70s we got funding from the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts], but now they won’t do it; however, we will continue to produce plays in different venues.”
Indeed, the day I visit Malina, she is getting ready to travel into New York City to perform in “Here We Are,” the company’s latest play, which is enjoying an extended run at the Clemente Solo Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, on the Lower East Side.
Malina is now planning to write two new plays, one for the Living Theater and another to be produced at the Lillian Booth. The latter will voice personal advocacy — as opposed to politics — and focus on the indignities of old age and on the lack of respect that many elderly experience despite their enhanced wisdom. “The problem is worse today than it ever was, because prejudices are growing,” she said. “Generally, people are more prejudiced today than they once were.” Malina hopes to stage the work at the home with a cast of residents, or what she only half-kiddingly refers to as “inmates.”
During the interview, she rummages through piles of papers and miscellany to share with me: books about the Living Theatre; old reviews, clips and photos. One picture has special meaning; it features herself, Beck and her second husband, actor Hanon Reznikov, who was also a member of the Living Theatre and was 23 years her junior.
“Hanon said he’d always take care of me,” she said wistfully. To her, his sudden death in 2008 is still shocking. Gazing at the picture, she said, “The three of us worked together and slept together.”