Two great figures in the performing arts, both of whom are responsible for providing audiences with an extraordinary bounty of pleasure and provocation, are once again on my mind.
Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, and nurturer of some of the greatest playwrights , actors and directors of the 2oth century, died today at the age of 91.
What can you say about someone who provided a safe place for experimentation and subversion for a group that at various times included Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Liz Swados, Robert Wilson; Tom O’Horgan, Richard Foreman, Andrei Serban, Joe Chaikin, and Meredith Monk?
And earlier this week I saw an amazing short documentary, Richard Shepard’s I Knew It Was You, made in 2009 (not sure how I missed it) about one of my favorite actors, John Cazale. Cazale died in 1978 after making only five films, but his body of film and theater work was packed with some of the most powerful and poignant and unbearably sad performances I have ever seen. It was really thrilling for me to see him remembered in this wonderful documentary. I remember moments when I only became aware of some deep sadness of my own when I saw John Cazale’s face in one of his performances.
Dim the lights. Dim the lights.