Radical thoughts, limited spaces: a performance at the Caffe Cino.
“Theatre Genesis was an Off-Off-Broadway theater founded in 1964 by Ralph Cook. Located in the historic St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in New York City, it produced the work of new American playwrights, including Lanford Wilson, Murray Mednick, Leonard Melfi, Walter Hadler and most notably Sam Shepard. It is regarded as one of four theaters responsible for the explosion of New York’s off-off-Broadway movement, along with Joe Cino‘s Caffe Cino, Judson Poets Theatre and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. Known for its anarchistic, heterosexual and machismo energy, Theatre Genesis produced gritty and political plays that often attracted the post-Beat Generation street poets of the 1960s. Between the volatile and socially charged environment of New York City’s East Village, and the rejection of the city’s off-Broadway commercial producing model, writers and actors flocked to Theatre Genesis to create an extremely fertile and experimental period in American playwriting. Theatre Genesis finding a home in a church may seem an odd partnership, if it weren’t for a forward-thinking young rector named Michael Allen. The progressive Episcopalian took the helm of the church in 1963, and quickly opened his parish to all of the neighborhood’s constituents, mounting a large-scale outreach effort to include all demographics and all ethnicities from the surrounding streets. At that time the east village was a melange of artists, young counterculturists, immigrants from more expensive Manhattan neighborhoods as well as the homeless. Allen’s mission was to fund the arts and education initiatives in order to make its programming a microcosm of the neighborhood outside the church. Unlike its counterpart, Judson Church in the west village, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery had less initial resistance from its older wealthier and therefore more conservative members, and Allen’s arts programming quickly amplified the restless voice of a neighborhood. What resulted was an artistic questioning of New York’s and the country’s status quo. Plays, poetry readings, underground films and political gatherings all started occurring on church premises with the help and blessing of Rector Allen, but it soon became clear an arts curate would need to be hired in order to spearhead Allen’s vision of arts integration. …”
W – Theatre Genesis, W – Joe Cino, W – La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, W – Judson Memorial Church
W – Off-Off-Broadway
‘Mad Men’ notes: The delirious world of Off-Off-Broadway
The Gay Coffeehouse Where Off-Off Broadway Theater Was Born
A Tribute to Sam Shepard, Pioneer of New York’s Off-Broadway stage