Living Theatre Will Revive Its Groundbreaking 1959 Jazz Play, The Connection

News   Living Theatre Will Revive Its Groundbreaking 1959 Jazz Play, The Connection
 
Off-Broadway's The Living Theatre, the oldest experimental theatre group in the country, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Connection by playwright Jack Gelber with a new production directed by troupe co-founder and artistic director Judith Malina.

Performances begin Dec. 30 at The Living Theatre's home at 19-21 Clinton Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

The Living Theatre will present the revival in collaboration with New York City jazz musician Rene McLean, who will conduct a New York jazz ensemble. Opening is Jan. 8, 2009. Performances will continue to Feb. 13, 2009.

The groundbreaking production of The Connection (1959) "attracted national attention for its shocking portrayal of drug addiction and its equally unexpected language," according to production notes. "It was an enormous success for its improvisational style of acting and its exciting use of live jazz musicians including Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd (who composed the original score), Cecil Payne, Kenny Drew, Tina Brooks and Cecil Taylor."

Martin Sheen, a Living Theatre supporter and board member, launched his career with his work in the play. The show won several Obie Awards and ran for more than 700 performances.

"Its raw immediacy and demolition of the normal boundaries between audience and cast influenced generations of theatre productions and it is our desire to reintroduce this seminal work to a new generation of actors and jazz musicians and of course our audience," according to a Dec. 12 statement by The Living Theatre. According to production notes, "The Connection is a play about the human condition. The audience encounters a group of junkies and a group of jazz musicians waiting in a loft for 'Cowboy' to bring them a fix, while they are being filmed for a movie about their lives. It is the entrance to a complex world, which mirrors many aspects of the human condition from the burning despair of the addict to the glorious redemption of the jazz music."

The Connection was performed by The Living Theatre in 1959 and toured throughout Europe into the 1960s. Actors Joe Chaikin and James Earl Jones were part of its performance history.

This new production will feature Rene Maclean, the musician son of Jackie Maclean; Malina, who will direct and play the role of Sister Salvation; and Gary Brackett, Eric Olson, John Kohan, Eno Edet, Anthony Sisco, Brad Burgess, Jeff Nash, David Copley, Albert Lamont and Enoch Wu.

Assistant director is Judy Rhymer, second assistant director is Maia Larraz, set and lighting designer is Gary Brackett, music supervisor is Patrick Grant, music director is Rene Maclean and stage manager is Erin Downhour.

Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM; and Sundays at 4 PM. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling OvationTix at (212) 352-3101. Students and senior tickets are available for $20.

Wednesday is "Pay What You Can" night, and seating is on a first come, first serve basis.

For further information, visit www.livingtheatre.org.

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The Living Theatre is an American theatre company founded in 1947 and based in New York City. It is the oldest experimental theatre group still existing in the U.S. For most of its history it was led by its founders, actor Judith Malina and painter-poet Julian Beck. Judith Malina is artistic director.

In the 1950s, The Living Theatre was among the first in the U.S. to produce the work of influential European playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht and Jean Cocteau, as well as modernist poets such as T.S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein. Based in a variety of small New York locations (including the Cherry Lane Theatre and its own space on Lower Sixth Avenue), the troupe helped to originate Off-Broadway as a significant force in U.S. theatre. It encountered financial difficulties over the years, and its productions have surfaced sporadically.

For a complete history of the troupe, visit the History page of its website at www.livingtheatre.org.

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