I wrote a reflection on this poem and revised it slightly on Summer Solstice, June 20, 2014. Find it HERE!
|International innovator Ellen Stewart died at the age of 91 in 2011.|
"Ellen Stewart was a global citizen before anybody invented that identity as a way of being in the world. She staked a powerful claim on multiculturalism, intercultural thinking and multi-ethnic casting before any of these postures had acquired the patina of a fashionable movement dynamic. Stewart herself credited Joseph Cino for starting the Off-Off-Broadway movement—but if Cino was the father of Off-Off-Broadway, Stewart was the mother. In building her Greenwich Village coffeehouse, Café LaMaMa—which morphed to become the world-famous La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club—our Mama welcomed huddled masses of artists yearning to breathe theatre. . . . "
—Randy Gener from "Viva La Mama." TCG.
La Mama Ellen
by Susan L. Chast, 22 June 2012
They say that she cannot be summed up,
this high Catholic Sagittarius of legend
who thrived on drama and controversy.
That no matter where she cooked the brew
she served in the east ventricle of New York City,
she pumped its blood through the veins of ancient
civilizations and innovative fashion.
That she was a diplomat of the United Nations
who used theatre, music, and dance to prove
that borders can be crossed and that making
art together can change the world.
That she was beautiful, challenging, helpful,
difficult, stubborn, impossible, a genius,
an innovator, an imitator, an opportunist,
an opportunity, a seer.
And to her student-scholar, her shadow for a brief 20 months
out of her life of nineteen hundred and ninety four:
She was a Mentor of quantum possibility
She was a Mama who just knew
that I had energy to collaborate toward
common goals as well as to interpret
that I had time to watch and learn
as well as to record and analyze
that rehearsal breaks were for tasks
and not for naps.
She was Producer, Director, Designer
and a cleaning woman who taught that we make the room
by cleaning walls and bathrooms and floor boards
because we respect the space and those who walk in it.
This was her secret and her bottom line: Occupation
and Sharing of Space--Say what you must, but keep the space;
Defend who you must but do not give up the space;
Occupy the ground first and then play with definitions
and remember that if peepee and poopoo is all
that they can hear, then it is all that they deserve.
Place was her gift. We will not be dis-placed.
|Ellen Stewart surrounded by her "babies" at a production meeting in her apartment in 1970. Photo Credit: from Theatre Communications Group for LaMaMa 50th Anniversary in 2011 who have it courtesy of La MaMa Archive. |
This was the original last verse, cut by the poet:
I have never forgotten to own and occupy the space, to empower myself and others through this oh-so-natural and necessary first step: First comes Eden and only after, if you invite in the snake, can you call it Hell, and better yet--engage that snake in the work and in the play, open the snake eyes, let it join in and cross the border.
Copyright © 2012 S.L.Chast
Thank you Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads!
This is a real toad--a poem that has been in my mind since my dissertation research in 1989-90--pulled out of my history by yesterday's challenge "Fireblossom Friday ~ Get Famous." Thank you Ellen Stewart and thank you Fireblossom, for helping me to celebrate her life,
23 June 2012