Friday, October 24, 2008

LaMaMa E.T.C. Hosts "Tibetan Book of the Dead" Benefit, Oct. 27

Jean-Claude van Itallie needs your support. 

The legendary Off-Off-Broadway playwright wants to rebuild the ruins of his barn in Rowe, Mass., into a theatre and community center for retreats, healing and meditation. 

Once upon a time, the barn housed Shantigar Foundation, a nonprofit center, founded in 1977 and named by van Itallie’s Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Unfortunately, the cathedral-like barn burned down in 2000. 

Since then, workshops and performances have to be held in a big white tent, a wooden shed serving as office and dining space, and a large stone Buddha amidst the woodsy sanctuary’s old stone walls. “The barn is only temporarily invisible,” van Itallie says. 

The immediate need is to construct a commercial kitchen, eating space and bathrooms; the long-term plan is to build some 30 dwellings for visiting theatre artists.

To help raise funds for the barn’s reconstruction, Pilgrim Theatre, a Grotowski-trained troupe founded in Poland by Kim Mancuso and Kermit Dunkelberg, is reviving van Itallie’s 1983 stage adaptation of Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not to Do It Again Oct. 27 at La MaMa E.T.C. Jun Maeda, La MaMa’s resident designer, has recreated the ethereal skull, built of saplings, which serve as scaffolding for the set. 

The day after the benefit, on Oct. 28, the newspaper Soul of the American Actor and City University of New York’s Martin E. Segal Theatre-Graduate Center have put together a free, daylong event, “The Theatre of Jean-Claude van Itallie,” featuring screenings and readings of van Itallie’s major works. At this event, I will be moderating a 2 PM panel discussion on America Hurrah and The Serpent.  It is free and open to the public.


Presented by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY in collaboration with Ronald Rand and The Soul of the American Actor.

THE THEATRE OF JEAN-CLAUDE VAN ITALLIE is a daylong event that features Jean-Claude Van Itallie, Preston Dyar, Wayne Maugans, Angelica Torn, Bill Coco, Lil Malinich, Ron Faber, Cynthia Harris, Joanna Rotté, Kermit Dunkleberg, Rae C. Wright, Judith Malina, Peter Goldfarb, Rosemary Quinn, Barbara Vann, Tina Shepard, Randy Gener, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Evangeline Morphos, Alex Gildzen, Mark Hall Amitin, Ruth Maleczech, Lisa Shubert, Court Dorsey, Susan Thompson, Kim Mancuso, Lois Walden, Steve Gorn, David Lewis, Didi Goldenhar, Jake Robards, Angelica Torn, Laila Robins, Grant Kertchick, Brian Murray, Lauren Bond, Alex Glizden and Lorraine Grosslight.

NEW YORK CITY, Oct. 28, 2008, 2:00 pm + 6:30 pm
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Proshanksy Auditorium, 365 Fifth Ave. at 34th St.
For More Information Click HERE.

2:00 pm 
War, The Hunter and the Bird
America Hurrah (excerpts from Interview and Motel) and The Serpent

3:00 pm 
Panel Discussion 
on America Hurrah and The Serpent
moderated by Randy Gener

3:45 pm 
Bag Lady, Struck Dumb (Video excerpt with Joseph Chaikin), The Tibetan Book of the Dead and Mila, a new musical

4:30 pm 
Panel Discussion on "The Art of Collaboration": Tibetan Book of the Dead and Mila, moderated by Lois Walden

6:30 pm 
Excerpts from translations of 
Anton Chekhov’s plays by Jean-Claude van Itallie: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard
War, Sex, and Dreams (Video with Jean-Claude Van Itallie); Light

7:30 pm 
A Dialogue with Bill Coco and Jean-Claude Van Itallie
Reception and book signing to follow

Jean-Claude van Itallie was born in Brussels in 1936, emigrated to America with his family in 1940, graduated Harvard in 1958, and was a central force in the explosive New York off-Broadway theater movement of the sixties. 

His acclaimed America Hurrah, considered the watershed anti-Viet Nam war play, received numerous awards. He was one of the original playwrights at Ellen Stewart's LaMama, and for Joe Chaikin's Open Theater he wrote the ensemble play The Serpent

Van Itallie's more than thirty plays include War, Bag Lady, Almost Like Being, The Traveler, Struck Dumb and Ancient Boys. His translations of Chekhov (Chekhov, the Major Plays, Applause Books) have been widely produced in major theaters across America. 

A student of Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa since 1968, van Itallie wrote the play Tibetan Book of the Dead (premiered at LaMama, NYC 1983), published as The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud (North Atlantic). As an actor-writer in Guys Dreamin (Boston Center for the Arts; LaMama, 1997), van Itallie was well reviewed in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times for his one man show, War, Sex, and Dreams (Highways, Santa Monica; LaMama, 1999). 

In 2002 he received the New England Theater Conference's Special Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Theatre. His play Light (a love triangle between Voltaire, Frederick the Great, and Emilie du Chatelet) premiered in Pasadena at Theatre at Boston Court, 2004 and received several LA Critics awards. Retitled Lumieres, it is to be produced in Paris. In 2006 van Itallie's play Fear Itself, Secrets of the White House opened at Theater for the New City in New York.

Van Itallie has taught playwriting and performance at Princeton, NYU, Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Columbia, Middlebury, University of Colorado, as well as “Writing on Your Feet” and “Healing Power of Theater” workshops at Naropa, Esalen, Omega, New York Open Center, Shantigar, and many other places. He's the author of the playwriting text, The Playwright's Workbook (Applause Books). Van Itallie has transformed the farm in Western Massachusetts where he lives into Shantigar Foundation for theater, meditation, and healing (

The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC), The Graduate Center, CUNY, is a non-profit center for theatre, dance, and film affiliated with CUNY's Ph.D. Program in Theatre. Originally founded in 1979 as the Center for Advanced Studies in Theatre Arts (CASTA), it was renamed in March of 1999 in recognition of one of New York City's outstanding leaders of the arts. The Center's primary focus is to bridge the gap between the academic and professional performing arts communities by providing an open environment for the development of educational, community-driven, and professional projects in the performing arts.
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