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Judith Malina

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

Malina was born in Kiel, Germany, the daughter of a rabbi. In 1928 she moved with her father to New York City, where she has lived with few interruptions 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.

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.

When the company ran afoul of the IRS in 1963, the theatre was seized by the government, 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, 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.

When the main Living Theatre company disbanded in 1969, Malina and Beck continued to work together, and in 1971 they traveled with other company members to Brazil, where they were imprisoned for two months on political charges. On returning to New York, they reconstituted a new Living Theatre group. After Beck's death, company member Hanon Reznikov, who had become Malina's lover, assumed co-leadership of the company.

Malina's occasional film career began in 1975, when she had a small role in Dog Day Afternoon. She played larger roles in the Addams Family movies and Household Saints.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Judith Malina Facts

OccupationActress, Writer, Director
BirthdayJune 4, 1926 (97)
BirthplaceKiel, Germany

Selected Filmography

Sopranos (2005) tv
Nothing Really Happens (2004) as Tillie Hirsch
Let It Snow (1999)
Music From Another Room (1998)
Deli (1997)
Household Saints (1995) as Carmela Santangelo (breakthrough)
The Addams Family (1991)
Awakenings (1990)
Enemies, A Love Story (1989)
Miami Vice (1986) tv
ER tv
How to Draw a Bunny
Let It Snow
More ...