Judith Malina’s Lower East Side

judithmalina Ellen Wallenstein

Surrounded by books and diaries, Judith Malina lives on Clinton Street, in an apartment above the basement space that for five years has housed the Living Theatre, the avant-garde theater group she co-founded in 1947. The actress, writer, and director thinks of the Lower East Side, her “spiritual home,” as a well of inspiration: “It inspires me every minute when I walk out on the street,” she recently told The Local. “It’s so rich in the history of art, of experimentation, of social progress, of anarchism. This is really so much the hub of what has happened and what I think will happen next.”

What better place, then, to pose the questions – as her new interactive play “History of the World” sets out to do – of “Who are you in history?” and “Who are you in the Beautiful Non-Violent Anarchist Revolution yet to come?” Before we answered that, we asked Ms. Malina a few questions of our own – about her favorite local spots, of course.

Ideal place to people-watch
Clinton Street is a wonderful street. If you just sit out in front of the theater door, the world will pass you by and you can encounter all kinds of people. Come in here on a Friday or Saturday night and see the people come by looking for art, looking for love, looking for ideas.

Favorite live music venue
We do some very good live music downstairs [at the Living Theatre]. We do all sorts of series of concerts. Recently, we had “The Connection” return here [for the 50th anniversary performance of the play, with music by the Rene McLean Quartet].

Favorite local artist
Every local artist inspires me!

Favorite gift shop
I don’t do that very much. I’ll draw someone a picture or write a little verse… I don’t shop.

Local ritual on opening nights
We often begin with a little procession through the neighborhood, urging people to come, handing out leaflets and doing little bits and pieces of the play. It’s part of our street theater commitment.

Favorite restaurants
Just on Clinton Street there’s a Thai restaurant; you can have Chinese; there’s Clinton Street Bakery; there’s Frankie’s, just downstairs. The world is right here.

Though we have a feeling we already know the answer, of course we have to ask, did Malina choose the Lower East Side, or did the Lower East Side choose her? Ms. Malina does not hesitate before answering, “I chose it with might and main! I struggled to get here! I had to live on the Upper West Side for fifty years wishing I could get down here!”

Angela Cravens is the editorial director of the pop culture “channelzine” Arcade 44.