Julian Beck, Judith Malina and The Living Theater
“I met Julian Beck through Jack Gelber in 1984, shortly after the Living Theater returned to New York for a run at the Joyce Theater. The press was harsh; more like ridicule than review. After 10 years of self-imposed exile and over 30 years of relentlessly experimental work, the Living Theater was broke and broken up. When I arrived at the Upper Westside building where Julian lived with Judith Malina, Illion Troya, and Hanon Reznikov, he greeted me at the door and led me up to their apartment.
Books and papers on the floor and furniture all about, Julian’s own abstract-expressionist paintings hanging on the walls or leaning against them in standing stacks, he and I smoked a joint, drank tea, and talked while Illion tapped at a typewriter a few feet away and Judith whirled about the flat, appearing and disappearing, sometimes skinning vegetables in the kitchen, often talking into a phone she held in place between jawbone and shoulder, its wire jumping behind her as she went.
Julian’s long hands, comfortably clasped on his knee, separated when he was making some point. They moved slowly, drawing on the air, signals more than gestures. His eyes closed while he searched for words, then burst open to train on mine when he found the ones he wanted. His voice modulated from near-whisper to the stentorian. But there was nothing false about him. He was gracious and graceful and warmly gentle in his manner, yet passionate when setting the record straight on the history of his troupe or while assessing the state of theater in New York.
At the end of our conversation, Julian gave me a copy of PARADISE NOW, a collectively written play that was meant to help people move toward non-violent, anarchist revolution, and a more perfect society. He inscribed the book with the words, “May we both live to see the changes described in this play.” That remained his aim. If he knew he was sick with cancer, I couldn’t tell. We talked a great deal about the past, but his eyes were on the future. The difficulties facing the Living Theater, arguably among the worst in its history, were merely a nuisance. The troupe would be reunited. The work would go on. There was plenty to do.”
— Mark Ari, 2007
Ubuweb: Mark Ari interviews Julian Beck