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Guide to the Mabou Mines Archive, 1966-2000 (bulk 1970-1995) MSS.133

Fales Library and Special Collections
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Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Sharon Lehner, 2003; and William J. Levay, 2006-2007. Media updated by Luke Martin and Brent Phillips, 2008; YZ Chin, 2009. Further processing and description by Luke Martin, 2009.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on March 28, 2019
Description is in English.

 Updated by Jacqueline Rider to reflect incorporation of video preservation master and sub-master files Updated by Megan O'Shea to prepare artwork being sent to offsite art storage in September 2017 Updated by Kelly Haydon to meet minimum requirements for off-site storage.  Updated by Rachel Searcy to reflect 2019 accretion of posters  , March 2017 , August 2017 , May 2018 , February 2019

Historical Note

Mabou Mines is a collaborative, avant-garde theater company based in New York City. Founded in 1970, the company took its name from an old mining town in northern Nova Scotia, near where founding members JoAnne Akalaitis, Lee Breuer, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, and David Warrilow, developed  The Red Horse Animation, the group's first original performance piece. Since then Mabou Mines has produced scores of plays, collaborated with well-known writers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, garnered heaps of critical praise and awards, and performed around the globe, cementing its reputation as an innovative force in the theater world. The company's official website is maboumines.org.

Lee Breuer and Ruth Maleczech met studying theater at UCLA in the late 1950s. Around 1960, the couple hitchhiked to San Francisco to participate in the city's active theater scene. Working at the San Francisco Actor's Workshop and the San Francisco Mime Troupe they met Bill Raymond, and at the San Francisco Tape Music Center they met JoAnne Akalaitis. In 1964 Akalaitis moved to New York City but left for Paris soon after with composer (and future husband) Philip Glass. The following year Breuer and Maleczech left San Francisco for Europe. The two couples met up while traveling in Greece, went back to Paris, and with actor David Warrilow, began to work on staging Samuel Beckett's Play. It premiered at the American Cultural Center in 1967. It was also in Paris that the group first met actor Frederick Neumann. In 1969, back in New York with Glass, Akalaitis wrote the others in Paris suggesting they form a theater group in New York.

"Mabou Mines came together as a group to create formal works that would explore language and acting. They had a strong desire to collectively exercise complete artistic control over the work."1 Influenced especially by Jerzy Grotowski's teaching and Beckett's work, Mabou Mines went on to produce experimental theater pieces like Breuer's Red Horse Animationpieces that resulted from intense collaboration and improvisation, and incorporated elements of visual art, dance, mime, puppetry, and music.  Arc Welding Piece (1972), for example, featured an artist using an arc welder to make cuts in a large piece of metal, while actors expressed various states of emotion, their faces enlarged by magnifying lenses. In 1974, Fred Neumann joined the group to work on Breuer's second "Animation,"  The B. Beaver Animation. Bill Raymond joined shortly thereafter.

In its early years, Mabou Mines moved easily between the art world and the theater, often performing in galleries as well as stages. But its work with Beckett's writing firmly situated the group within a theatrical context. "Mabou Mines has produced eight pieces by Samuel Beckett [ Cascando, Come and Go, Company, Imagination Dead Imagine, The Lost Ones, Mercier and Camier, Play, Worstward Ho], six of which have been world premieres of texts not originally written for the theatre. These productions have led to Mabou Mines being considered one of the foremost interpreters of Beckett's work."2 After an early residency at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York, the company began performing at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, and other venues in New York and elsewhere.

From the beginning, creative roles were fluid and collaboration was key, but Lee Breuer served as the company's primary director. In 1975 however, Akalaitis directed Cascando and opened the door for other members to take on new roles, for the company to expand, and for multiple projects to come together simultaneously. Akalaitis went on to direct  Dressed Like an Egg (1977) and  Southern Exposure (1979), and wrote and directed  Dead End Kids (1980); Neumann directed  Mercier and Camier (1979); Maleczech directed  Vanishing Pictures (1980). Other performers worked with Mabou Mines, including L.B. Dallas, Linda Hartinian, Ellen McElduff, Greg Mehrten, Terry O'Reilly, and B-St. John Schofield.

The company steadily expanded its repertoire and continued its tradition of collaboration, working with talented performers and artists, including composers Bob Telson, John Zorn, Pauline Oliveros, and David Byrne. Mabou Mines has adapted works by Shakespeare ( Lear, 1990), Franz Xaver Kroetz (  Through the Leaves, 1984;  Help Wanted, 1986), Philip K. Dick (  Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, 1985), and Bertolt Brecht (  In the Jungle of Cities, 1991). The company has toured extensively in the United States and abroad.

Mabou Mines has remained committed to its ideal of complete artistic control. "All decisions, artistic and administrative, large and small, are made by the company members, and each member functions variously as producer, designer, actor, writer, or director for the other. Additionally all participate as members of the Board of Directors."3

As the company stated in a 1990 press kit, "The artistic purpose of Mabou Mines has been and remains the creation of new theatre pieces from original texts and the theatrical use of existing texts staged from a specific point of view. Each member is encouraged to pursue his or her artistic vision by initiating and collaborating on a wide range of projects of varying styles, developing them from initial concept to final performance. This process is intense and often lengthy. While the director of a Mabou Mines work is responsible for its concept and its basic structure, the ultimate production reflects the concerns and the artistic input of all its collaborators."4

References:
1. Unknown author, unpublished manuscript. A history of Mabou Mines through 1989.
2. Mabou Mines, company history included in press kit, 1990.
3. Mabou Mines website, maboumines.org.
4. Mabou Mines, company history included in press kit, 1990.

Chronology of Productions:

1970 The Red Horse Animation
1971 Come and Go
Play
1972 Arc Welding
Music for Voices
1973 Send/Receive/Send
1974 Mabou Mines Performs Samuel Beckett
1975 Cascando
The B. Beaver Animation
1976 The Saint and the Football Player
1977 Dressed Like An Egg
1978 Shaggy Dog Animation
1979 Mercier and Camier
Southern Exposure
1980 A Prelude to a Death in Venice
Dead End Kids
Easy Daisy (for radio)
Sister Suzie Cinema
Vanishing Pictures
1981 Wrong Guys
1982 The Keeper Radio Series
1983 Cold Harbor
Company
Hajj
The Joey Schmerda Story (for radio)
The Josy Schmerda
1984 Imagination Dead Imagine
Pretty Boy
Through the Leaves
1985 Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
It's A Man's World
Starcock
The Interview Series (for radio)
1986 CEO
Dead End Kids (Film Version)
Help Wanted
The Kafka Parables (for radio)
Worstward Ho
1987 Sueños
1988 The Gospel at Colonus
1990 B. Beaver Animation (reconstruction)
Mabou Mines Lear
The Miller Series (for radio)
1991 In the Jungle of Cities
The Quantum
1992 The MahabharANTa, and Selected Stories from the Insectiad
1993 The Bribe
1994 Mother
Reel To Real
1995 An Epidog
1996 Peter and Wendy
Pootanah Moksha
Red Horse Animation (reconstruction)
1997 Happy Days
1999 Belén-A Book of Hours
2000 Animal Magnetism
2001 Ecco Porco
2003 Cara Lucia
Mabou Mines DollHouse
2005 Red Beads
Summa Dramatica
2007 Song For New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting