News & Politics

Living Theatre Too Broke for Paris?


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April 5, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 24

The Bags Are Packed, but Where’s the Fare?

By Michael Smith

The moment of truth is at hand for the Living Theatre, and the key word is PANIC!, scrawled in chalk on a blackboard in the office of co-directors Julian Beck and Judith Malina. The 30-man company is scheduled to open a the Festival du Theatre des Nations in Paris on April 19 and continue from there on a 22-city tour of Europe. As The Voice goes to press, the Living Theatre still needs to raise $9,000 of the $54,000 cost of the trip.

The Living Theatre does intend to go, and the first commitment has been made. In order to reach Paris in time for the scheduled opening, the scenery for “The Connection,” “The Apple,” and “In the Jungle of Cities” must leave New York on Monday, and crating is well under way. If necessary the Becks are prepared to pay shipping costs with personal funds, money they received last year from the Brandeis University Creative Arts Award. Most of the contributions to the trip have been made on the basis of a 22-city tour, and none will be spent until the entire sum is raised.

As if the built-in difficulties were not enough, the Becks have lost time and money through their dedication to the peace movement. Their leadership of the recent General Strike for Peace cost them “at least $10,000” when a contributor to the tour fund abruptly withdrew his support.

The most serious interference resulted from the Becks’ participation in the Times Square demonstration a month ago. Beck was hospitalized for a week with a punctured lung received when the police decided to move back the barricades. Miss Malina, who sat down in the middle of Broadway to protest the brutal treatment of a young demonstrator who had fainted, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Also arrested were Joseph Chaikin, star of “The Connection,” and stage manager Bill Shari.

In a hearing a week ago the trial of Chaikin, Shari, and Miss Malina was put off until July 16. The understanding is that they will not be in this country at that time, and the trial will be put off again, probably until September. “We have to go back to Special Sessions before this is final,” Miss Malina says, “but there should be no trouble.”

The official American government attitude toward the Living Theatre tour was summed up by the State Department when Beck appealed for funds: “You cannot expect us to use taxpayers’ money to publicize American drug addiction, homosexuality, and a play by a Communist.” The European reaction was different. During last year’s tour the Living Theatre was awarded the Grand Prix of the Paris festival and was designated “Best Acting Company” by the Paris Critics Circle.

Also on that office blackboard are the words “Hello Claude,” with which Julian Beck could begin his transatlantic conversation to tell Claude Plancon, director of the Paris festival, that the Living Theatre will not be able to make the trip. But right beside them is “April in Paris,” Judith Malina’s cry of optimism. And the happiest omen came two weeks ago, when in a black moment Beck found a six-foot French flag in a trashcan.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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