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|Died||22 June 2003 67) (aged|
|Occupation||Theatre director, actor, playwright, pedagogue|
Joseph Chaikin (September 16, 1935 – June 22, 2003) was an American theatre director, actor, playwright, and pedagogue.
The youngest of five children, Chaikin was born to a poor Jewish family living in the Borough Park residential area of Brooklyn. At the age of six, he was struck with rheumatic fever, and he continued to suffer from resulting heart complications throughout his life. At the age of ten, he was sent to the National Children's Cardiac Hospital in Florida. It was during this period of isolation he began to organize theater games with other children. After two years in Florida, his health improved, and he was returned to his family, who had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where his father had taken a job teaching.
Chaikin briefly attended Drake University in Iowa, and then returned to New York to begin a career in theater, studying with various acting coaches, while struggling to survive working a variety of jobs. He appeared as a figurant at the Metropolitan Opera, and gradually began to be cast in legitimate stage roles, going on to work with The Living Theatre before founding in 1963 The Open Theater a theater co-operative that progressed from a closed experimental laboratory to a performance ensemble.
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Open Theater allowed Chaikin and his colleagues the space to experiment with unconventional and organic drama techniques. They embraced dance and musical performance practices and encouraged actors to be more expressive in the body. When asked in a 1999 interview why he was compelled to start Open Theater, Chaikin responded, "I’m not crazy about naturalism on stage. An actor is an interpretive artist. They can take their talent further. I wanted them to stretch, be creative."
The Open Theatre's most famous and critically acclaimed production, The Serpent , was a unique creation developed largely from the actors' own experiences, using the Bible as text, but incorporating current events, such as the violence that plagued the 1960s. An Open Theatre exercise by Jean-Claude van Itallie, "Interview," became part of the play America Hurrah , and Chaikin directed the "Interview" section when the play opened at the Pocket Theatre in 1966. In 1969 Open Theatre performed Endgame by Samuel Beckett, with Chaikin playing the role of Hamm and Peter Maloney as Clov, at the Cite Universitaire, Paris, and in 1970 at the Grasslands Penitentiary, a fulfillment of Chaikin's desire to experiment with audiences who would be fundamentally and culturally different from cosmopolitan audiences.
In 1970-71 Open Theatre performed Terminal by Susan Yankowitz, touring the production internationally—including at the Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran (1971)--as well as to many maximum and minimum security prisons in the eastern U.S. and Canada. The Open Theater operated for about ten years. Chaikin closed the Open Theatre in 1973 because he said it was in danger of becoming an institution. Although it achieved much critical success, Chaikin said: "I have rarely known a case where a critic's response to actors, directors or writers has expanded or encouraged their talent- I have known cases where by panning or praising, the critic has crushed or discouraged creative inspiration".
In 1977, Chaikin formed an experimental workshop company called The Winter Project, whose members included Ronnie Gilbert, Corey Fischer, Robbie McCauley, Mark Samuels, Robert Montgomery, Christopher McCann and Will Patton, as well as core members of the previous Open Theatre, among others. In the Winter Project, Chaikin proposed and participated in explorations of the boundary between life and death, the actor as storyteller, listening, found dialogue and more.
His production of The Dybbuk at the Public Theater in 1977-78 was, to some extent, influenced by some of these researches. Chaikin had a close working relationship with Sam Shepard and they cowrote the plays Tongues and Savage/Love , both of which premiered at San Francisco's Magic Theatre. They were commissioned to write When The World Was Green for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, later collaborating to write War in Heaven . Chaikin was an expert on Samuel Beckett.
Chaikin adapted Texts for Nothing with Steven Kent who directed him in a solo show based on the material which performed at the Public Theater in New York, at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, the American Center in Paris, and in Toronto. Chaikin directed a number of Beckett's plays, including Endgame at the Manhattan Theatre Club and Happy Days at Cherry Lane Theater.
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In 1984, Chaikin suffered a stroke during his third open-heart surgery, which left him with partial aphasia. Following Chaikin's stroke, several writers, including Jean-Claude van Itallie, Susan Yankowitz, and Sam Shepard, wrote plays specifically for Chaikin to perform and direct, most notably The War in Heaven which was directed by Steven Kent. Chaikin performed the piece in San Diego, Atlanta, and Parma, Italy, Samuel Beckett's last poem, "What Is the Word?", was written for and dedicated to Chaikin.
Chaikin was a lifelong teacher of acting and directing, and lived most of his adult life in New York's West Village, at Westbeth Artists Community.
The Theatre of the Absurd is a post–World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s. It is also a term for the style of theatre the plays represent. The plays focus largely on ideas of existentialism and express what happens when human existence lacks meaning or purpose and communication breaks down. The structure of the plays is typically a round shape, with the finishing point the same as the starting point. Logical construction and argument give way to irrational and illogical speech and to the ultimate conclusion—silence.
Samuel Shepard Rogers III was an American actor, playwright, author, screenwriter, and director whose career spanned half a century. He won ten Obie Awards for writing and directing, the most won by any writer or director. He wrote 58 plays as well as several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. He received the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009. New York magazine described Shepard as "the greatest American playwright of his generation."
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett, is a one-act play with four characters. It was originally written in French ; Beckett himself translated it into English. The play was first performed in a French-language production at the Royal Court Theatre in London, opening on 3 April 1957. The follow-up to Waiting for Godot, it is commonly considered to be among Beckett's best works. The literary critic Harold Bloom called it the greatest prose drama of the 20th century, and Samuel Beckett considered it his masterpiece. Briefly, it is about a blind, paralyzed man and his servant who await an unspecified “end” which seems to be the end of their relationship, death, and the end of the actual play itself.
The Open Theater was an experimental theatre group active from 1963 to 1973.
Richard Schechner is University Professor Emeritus at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and editor of TDR: The Drama Review.
Marcus Stern is the associate director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) as well as the A.R.T./MXAT's Institute for Advanced Theater Training. Stern lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has directed numerous productions for the A.R.T. and the Institute for Advanced Theater Training. He also teaches at the Harvard Extension School.
Tectonic Theater Project is a stage and theatre group whose plays have been performed around the world. The company is dedicated to developing works that explore theatrical language and form, fostering dialogue with audiences on the social, political, and human issues that affect society. In service to this goal, Tectonic supports readings, workshops, and full theatrical productions, as well as training for students around the United States in their play-making techniques. The company has won a GLAAD Media Award.
JoAnne Akalaitis is an avant-garde Lithuanian-American theatre director and writer. She won five Obie Awards for direction and was founder in 1970 of the critically acclaimed Mabou Mines in New York City.
The Talking Band is an American Off-Off-Broadway theatre company specializing in experimental theatre, based in New York City, New York.
Corey John Fischer was an American actor.
Michael Townsend Smith is an American playwright, theatre director, impresario, critic, and lighting designer.
Megan Terry is an American playwright, screenwriter, and theatre artist.
The Committee was a San Francisco-based improvisational comedy group founded by Alan Myerson and Jessica Myerson, formerly known as Irene Ryan, Irene Riordan and now known as Latifah Taormina. The Myersons were both alums of The Second City in Chicago. The Committee opened April 10, 1963 at 622 Broadway in a 300-seat Cabaret theater that used to be an indoor bocce ball court in San Francisco's North Beach. Garry Goodrow, Hamilton Camp, Larry Hankin, Kathryn Ish, Scott Beach and Ellsworth Milburn were the cast. Jerry Mander handled the group's PR, and Richard Stahl, who later joined the improv troupe, was its first company manager. Jessica Myerson joined the company in May. Arthur Cantor took the company to Broadway in New York in 1964 for a limited engagement at the Henry Miller Theater. This occasioned a second group to hold the fort in San Francisco. Morgan Upton, Peter Lane, Leigh French, Chris Ross, Howard Hesseman, Nancy Fish, Peter Bonerz and Carl Gottlieb became the mainstays of the San Francisco troupe. Roger Bowen, a founding member of both The Compass Players and The Second City, joined in 1966. John Brent, co-creator with Del Close of the How to Speak Hip album and a bit player in many movies, was also a member.
Night Sky is a 1991 play by Susan Yankowitz, which originally premiered in New York starring Joan MacIntosh, under the direction of Joseph Chaikin, whose personal struggles with stroke and aphasia were the original inspiration for the play. It was later produced Off-Broadway in a revised version under the direction of Daniella Topol and featuring Jordan Baker in the main role.
Theatre Genesis was an off-off-Broadway theater founded in 1964 by Ralph Cook. Located in the historic St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in the East Village of Manhattan, it produced the work of new American playwrights, including Lanford Wilson, Murray Mednick, Leonard Melfi, Walter Hadler, and Sam Shepard. Theatre Genesis is often credited as one of the original off-off-Broadway theaters, along with Joe Cino's Caffe Cino, Ellen Stewart's La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, and Judson Poets Theatre.
Walter D. Asmus is a German theatre director.
Jean-Claude van Itallie is a Belgian-born American playwright, performer, and theatre workshop teacher. He is best known for his 1966 anti-Vietnam War play America Hurrah;The Serpent, an ensemble play he wrote with Joseph Chaikin's Open Theatre; his theatrical adaptation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead; and his translations of Anton Chekhov's plays.
America Hurrah is a satirical play by Jean-Claude van Itallie, which premiered at the Pocket Theatre in New York City on November 7, 1966. Directed by Jacques Levy and Joseph Chaikin, the play was an early expression of the burgeoning 1960s counterculture, expressing discontent with American consumerism and involvement in the Vietnam War. America Hurrah consists of three one-act plays: "Interview"; "TV"; and "Motel".
Marianne de Pury is a Swiss theatre artist and composer born in St. Gallen, Switzerland. She is best known as the musical composer of two 1966 anti-war plays, Jean-Claude van Itallie's social satire America Hurrah and Megan Terry's rock musical Viet Rock.
Alvin Epstein was an American actor and director. He was a founding member of both the American Repertory Theater and Yale Repertory Theatre. He was particularly admired for his performances in the plays of Samuel Beckett. He also served as Artistic Director at the Guthrie Theater.