Off-Off-Broadway, as Elegy


Ben Martin’s 1961 Caffe Cino

“Nothing exists in a vacuum. A tenet of Hegelian and Marxist dialectics as much as quantum physics, each thing that exists is born in specific reaction to other existing entities. Nuclear reactions, political revolutions, and certainly artistic movements all arise because of and in relation to specific atomic conditions, to a zeitgeist, to an historical event. Certainly the American theater is no exception to this process of becoming–Off-Broadway, as its name indicates, arose in reaction if not direct opposition to the popular-entertainment establishment of Broadway. Off-Off-Broadway, though named such only well after its inception, grew as a reaction to the increasing commercialization of Off-Broadway. … In the first years of the ‘60s, something was happening in the Village that would converge with this imperative for a new theater. It was an interest, artistically interdisciplinary, in cross-utilizing spaces. Hanging paintings in a cafe, for example, is not a new idea–cafes of Paris have been loaded with paintings for centuries–but the cross-pollination of arts that was happening inherently in the little neighborhood of the Village in the early ‘60s was sparking new ways of thinking of space, new definitions of what art is and what performance could be. Modern dancers like Anna Sokolow (also a co-founder of the Actors Studio) and Merce Cunningham were actively exploring the operations of the body in space, and in a space. A spring 1962 performance of graduates from Robert Dunn’s class at the Merce Cunningham studios was hosted by the Judson Memorial Church, that had just the past November begun hosting play performances. That first performance of the Judson Dance Theater marked the beginning of the avant-garde dance scene, and the Judson Poets’ Theatre would become, with Caffe Cino and La Mama ETC, the most influential experimental theater space. To understand why the proliferation of the use of non-proscenium spaces was so pivotal in the surge of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, we must remember what theater is, in its most essential form. …”
Haleh Roshan
W – Off-off-Broadway
Literary Theory and Criticism: Off-Off-Broadway Theater
amazon: Off-Off-Broadway Explosion: How Provocative Playwrights of the 1960’s Ignited a New American Theater, Playing Underground: A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway Movement


Promenadewritten by Maria Irene Fornes, with music by Al Carmines—opened at the Judson Poets’ Theatre on April 9, 1965, Off-Off-Broadway

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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