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La MaMa Experimental Theatre: a lasting bridge between cultures

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MariBet (La MaMa Experimental Theatre: a lasting bridge between cultures)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2021-10-01 do 2022-09-30

This project is focused on the activity of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club of New York, founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart (1919-2011) in an old café on Manhattan Lower East Side, to give voice to artists marginalized by both the institutional theatres of Broadway and the Off-Broadway scene. In America, during the 60’s, Stewart conceived a theatre that could be a real place of collaboration, sharing and cohesion of different cultures; a theatre in which artists coming from all over the world could work together taking advantage of their various languages and cultures. She conceived theatre as a meeting and integration point, overcoming cultural and geo-political barriers, engaging artists and companies in a common artistical research. Stewart’s ideas spread out by exporting La MaMa productions all around the world, opening branches in different countries and establishing relationships with the local theatres and citizens.
* Some key concepts used by La MaMa in those years, like ‘integration’ and ‘identity’, are still crucial today in its artistical research and activities, being a place where artists of different generations and from all around the world can share their work.

* Objectives
The first objective of the project is to fill the gap in the field of theatre studies with an in-depth and exhaustive study of the history of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club within the Avant-Garde theatre (1961-1975) and of a selection of its historical productions directed by Andrei Serban, the first director of La MaMa coming from Europe (1972-1974).
The second objective is to analyse the engagement of La MaMa in approaching relevant socio-political issues and promoting intercultural dialogues both in the past and in the present.

MariBet brought to light the role of La MaMa as a bridge between the European culture and the American one. The research hightlighted the collaboration Ellen Stewart fostered between La MaMa's companies and the most important European masters of theatre, and how the American artists brought to the US the principles and the training created by the European master Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook and Eugenio Barba, developing them in new approaches to the theatre research and creation. Through the deep sudy of original documents, MariBet evidenced the essential role of La MaMa in the development of the American Avant-garde and in sharing the Off-Off Broadway theatre in Europe.
From December 2019 until Sepetmber 2021 I had been in New York City for the Outgoing Phase, hosted at The Martin E. Segal Theatre Centre - Graduate Centre CUNY.
At the beginning of 2020, I conducted the research work at La MaMa's Archive in New York, at the Brooklyn Music Academy Archive, at the NYPL Performing Arts Division, at the Kent State University Archive and at the Odin Teatret Archives.
Subjects of the research were the collaboration of La MaMa with European Artists; the European Tours of La MaMa in 1965-1968; the contacts of some La MaMa's companies with European Artists and their collaboration in the past; the Greek tragedies staged by Andrei Serban and Elizabeth Swados (1972-1974); the influence of European directos on La MaMa's companies.
About present, I focused my research on 'The Trojan Women Project' (2015-2019) and on 'Weather#', produced in 2021. They are projects based on the sharing of culture and the collaboration between artists coming from all over the world, focused on the main objective of Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa in 1961.
Results of the two years of research were disseminated giving speeches at International Conferences and through articles in scientific journals.

During the return phase, from October 2021, I continued the consultation of archival documents gathered to wright articles and the monograph about the relationship of La MaMa's companies with European masters during the Sixties and Seventies.
I organized, with Prof. Brunetti and Prof. Eckersall, the international conference 'The rise of new theatre and the theatrical avant-garde: meetings and influences across boundaries (1948-1981)', that was delivered online in a webinar modality, on May 4-5, 11-12. Proceedings will be published in 2023.
Output of the research were delivered through speeches presented at international conferences - at University of Milan (May 2022), La Sorbonne University (July 2022) and University of Padua (September 2022) - and in four articles published in scientific journals.
A last mission was organized on 4-11 of September, during which I consulted the Odin Teatret Archive in Holstebro to gather last documents about La MaMa’s visit at Odin in 1967-1968.
The monograph will be published by Routledge within 2023, and a book about the history of Off-Off Broadway theatre by Edizioni di Pagina in 2023.
As a conclusion of MariBet, it was planned a short conference on November 14th 2022 and a seminar for PhD students, at University of Verona, where Prof. Marvin Carlson and Prof. Peter Eckersall were hosted during their visit to meet Prof. Simona Brunetti.
This research is essential for the theatrical studies because it filled a relevant gap in the history of theatre of the 20th Century.
MariBet brought important details on the history of La MaMa and its activities in the past. By analysing the work of some companies in the Sixties and Seventies, it has been traced a map of contacts among la MaMa's artists and important European directors such as Eugenio Barba and Peter Brook, and brought to light the influence of the European theatre on the development of the Off-Off Broadway acting and training.
Also emerged how Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa, was essential in encouraging the sharing of cultures in the past, and how her aims are still fundamental in the work of La MaMa.

The deepening about the Off-Off Broadway theatre higlighted its importance in the history of the American theatre and how it influenced the American Avant-Garde theatre development. Also emerged the importance of Ellen Stewart and La MaMa in introducing European artists and companies to the Americans and her engagement in put in contact artists coming from all over the world, fostering collaborations in the US as well as in Europe.
This new knowledge filled a gap in the history of theatre and brought a new perspective from which to look at the Avant-garde theatre history, re-reading it from the point of view of the collaborations that participated in the development of the theatre research.

MariBet had high impact in making people aware of how theatre can be a bridge between societies and facilitate an open approach to the diverse cultures. This project had a notable impact among the general public thanks to the publishing activities and the sharing of my experience as a Marie Curie fellow abroad: these actions made people aware of the importance of the research work in general and in the theatre field. Thanks to the exposition I organized in July 2022, several people, Italians, and tourists coming from other countries, had the opportunity to know the Marie Curie Program.
MariBet. Researching Theatre