La MaMa Celebrates 50th Anniversary 10/16
Begun humbly in a store front in 1961 by a former fashion designer with a flair for the theatrical -- and dodging brushes with the law without proper city permits! -- the now internationally-renowned LA MAMA theater remarkably begins its 50th anniversary season this month with a FREE La MaMa 50 World Block Party, featuring free performances by Blue Man Group, Silver Cloud Singers, Bad Buka, the dance troupe Pua Ali'i ‘Ilima o Nuioka, Middle Collegiate Gospel Choir, the La MaMa Puppet Parade, Circus Amok, DJ Rabbi Darkside, Carmelita Tropicana and more.
Founded by the late Ellen Stewart (who was widely known as "Mama" and who died in NYC in January 2011 at the age of 91), LA MAMA began humbly in a storefront in the East Village in 1961, and rather famously moved from location to location to avoid being shuttered during its early days as Stewart lacked the proper permits to operate a theatre.
Stewart was a creature of the East Village and loved the neighborhood (her residence was in an apartment above the theatre), putting down roots there and became a trailblazer, flagship and anchor for other institutions, businesses and the entire neighborhood.
Fifty years later -- having been home to such celebrated artists through the years as Sam Shepard, Bette Midler, Harvey Fierstein, Diane Lane, Julie Taymor, WALLY SHAWN, Blue Man Group, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Irwin, drag queens, performance artists, filmmakers, artists and countless others -- LA MAMA now operates three theatres on East 4th Street, along with an art gallery and other facilities in the East Village, and is recognized as one of the world's leading institutions for experimental theater.
In memory Ellen Stewart -- who famously began performances of shows at LA MAMA by ringing a bell -- the hundreds of people who attend the Block Party, along with neighborhood churches, businesses and theaters (including video feeds of bell-ringing from theatres around the world, will be given bells to ring during the renaming of East 4th Street Ellen Stewart WAY at the conclusion of the Block Party between 5:30 and 6 p.m.