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Judith Malina (born June 4, 1926) is an Americanmarker theater and film actor, writer, and director, who is one of the founders and leaders of The Living Theatre.


Early life

Malina was born in Kielmarker, Germanymarker, the daughter of an aspiring actress mother and a rabbi father. In 1929, she moved with her parents to New York Citymarker, where, except for long tours, she has lived ever since. Interested in acting from an early age, she began attending the New School for Social Research in 1945 to study theatre under Erwin Piscator. Malina was greatly influenced by Piscator's philosophy of theatre, which was based on Bertolt Brecht's principles of "epic theatre" but went further than Brecht in departing from traditional narrative forms, and which saw theatre as a form of political communication or agitprop—though Malina, unlike Piscator, was committed to nonviolence and anarchism.

Career & marriage

Malina met her long-time collaborator and husband, Julian Beck, when she was 17. Beck, originally a painter, came to share her interest in political theatre, and in 1947 the two founded The Living Theatre, which they directed together until Beck's death in 1985. Malina's and Beck's marriage was as unconventional as their work: Beck was bisexual and had a male partner, and Malina was involved with a series of men. The couple had two children—a son, Garrick, and a daughter, Isha.

In 1963 the theatre was closed after IRS accusations (later proved false) of tax problems, and Malina and Beck were convicted of contempt of court. They received a five-year suspended sentence, and decided to leave the U.S. The company spent the next five years touring in Europe and creating increasingly radical works, culminating in Paradise Now, which they returned to the U.S. to present in 1968. Malina's book The Enormous Despair (1972), part of her series of diaries, records the sense of danger and unfamiliarity she felt on returning to the U.S. in the midst of the social upheavals of the late 1960s.

In 1969 the company divided to divide into three groups. One worked on the pop scene in London, another went to India to study traditional Indian theatre arts, and the third, including Malina and Beck, traveled in 1971 to Brazilmarker, where they were imprisoned on political charges for two months by the military government. After Beck's death from cancer, company member Hanon Reznikov, who had become Malina's lover (they married in 1988), assumed co-leadership of the company, which opened its own theater in 2007 at 21 Clinton Street in Manhattan. In April 2008 Reznikov suffered a stroke, and while hospitalized he died of pneumonia on May 3 at the age of 57.

Malina's occasional film career began in 1975, when she played Al Pacino's mother in Dog Day Afternoon and later briefly appeared in Pacino's Looking for Richard. She played Grandma Addams in The Addams Family (1991), and had major roles in Household Saints (1993) and in the low-budget production Nothing Really Happens (2003). She appeared in an episode of The Sopranos in 2006.

On September 22, 2008, Olympia Dukakis presented Malina with the 2008 Artistic Achievement Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. This honor was bestowed on Malina on behalf of her peers and fellow artists of the Off-Off-Broadway community "in recognition of her unabashed pioneering spirit and unyielding dedication to her craft and the Off-Off-Broadway community".

On March 25, 2009, Malina received the Edwin Booth Award from the Doctoral Theatre Students Association of the City University of New York.

Other awards include an honorary doctorate from Lehman Collegemarker, the Lola d’Annunzio award (1959); Page One Award (1960); Obie Award (1960, 1964, 1969, 1975, 1987, 1989, and 2007); Creative Arts Citation, Brandeis University (1961); Grand Prix du Théâtre des Nations (1961); Paris Critics Circle medallion (1961); Prix de L’Université de Paris (1961); New England Theater Conference Award (1962); Olympio Prize (1967); and a Guggenheim fellowship (1985).


  • Entretiens avec le Living Théâtre (with Julian Beck and Jean-Jaques Lebel) (1969)
  • We, The Living Theatre (with Julian Beck and Aldo Lastagmo) (1970)
  • Paradise Now (with Julian Beck) (1971)
  • The Enormous Despair, Diaries 1968-89 (New York: Random House, 1972)
  • Le Legs de Cain: trois projets pilotes (with Julian Beck) (1972)
  • Frankenstein (Venice Version) (with Julian Beck) (1972)
  • Sette meditazioni sul sadomachismo politico (with Julian Beck) (1977)
  • Living Heist Leben Theater (with Imke Buchholz) (1978)
  • Diary excerpts Brazil 1970, Diary of Bologna 1977 (1979)
  • Poems of a Wandering Jewess (Paris: Handshake Editions, 1982)
  • The Diaries of Judith Malina: 1947-1957 (New York: Grove Press, 1984)



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