Judith Malina

Active - 1963 - 2013  |   Born - Apr 10, 2015 in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany  |   Died - Apr 10, 2015   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Spirituality & Philosophy, Romance, Theater

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Character actress Judith Malina is best known for co-founding the innovative Living Theater in 1946 with Julian Beck, who would become her husband. Malina is the daughter of an orthodox Jewish-German rabbi who moved to the U.S. in 1928 to escape political oppression. She became friends with Beck when she was 17. While Beck was interested in painting, Malina wanted to be an actress, and in 1945, she attended Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop at the New School on a partial scholarship. Malina and Beck's Living Theater was closely related to the avant-garde theater movement of the early '40s. Their one-act productions were often improvisational or penned by such esteemed playwrights as Gertrude Stein, Bertold Brecht, or Paul Goodman. The subject matter of the plays became increasingly political during the '50s and Malina and Beck were no strangers to jail as a result of their involvement in nonviolent protests. In 1959, they won an Obie Award for their July 16, 1959, production of Jack Gelber's The Connection. The play's success landed them an invite to perform at the Theatre des Nations in Paris and their efforts there won them a grand prize. By the early '60s, the Living Theater was plagued with heavy debt and tax troubles. Malina and Beck were eventually tried for tax debt and jailed for contempt of court. Their Living Theater then moved to Europe where troupe members led a nomadic existence and changed the types of plays they put on. They returned to the U.S. to tour. In 1969, the main troupe split up and Malina and Beck went to Brazil in the early '70s. In addition to her theatrical work, Malina had a sporadic film career that began in 1975 with a small role in Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. In Barry Sonnenfeld's Addams Family (1991), Malina played Granny. She had a starring role as an Italian immigrant in Household Saints (1993).

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