RIP: Ronnie Gilbert

June 7, 2015

One of the joys of my first couple of years as a young theater critic in New York City was getting to see the work of Joseph Chaikin, the legendary actor-director who founded the Open Theater, one of the most celebrated experimental theater companies to emerge in the 1960s, along with the Living Theater and the Performance Group. By 1980, even before the Performance Group (founded by Richard Schechner) morphed into the Wooster Group (with Elizabeth LeCompte at the helm), the Open Theater evolved into the Winter Project, an ensemble of superb actors that included Tina Shepard, Ellen Maddow,  and Paul Zimet — the folks who spun off their own company, the Talking Band — as well as a very young Will Patton, who went on to an active career in movies, and Ronnie Gilbert, who came to Chaikin’s world with her own celebrity as a member of the rousing politically active singing group the Weavers (whose members also included Pete Seeger). Gilbert was a wonderful, big-hearted presence on and off stage, and I will always treasure the memory of seeing her in productions at La Mama, beginning in 1980 with Tourists and Refugees .(below)

tourists and refugees postaltourists and refugees 2

with Gloria Foster in TRESPASSING

with Gloria Foster in TRESPASSING

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