Returning to Yale

Judith Malina, center, co-founder and artistic director of The Living Theatre, teaches a workshop to students from the Yale School of Drama in 2009. (Bettina Hansen, Hartford Courant)

In September of 1968, during The Living Theatre's performance of "Paradise Now" at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, audience members left the theater and took to the streets.

Encouraged by the performers on the stage, who were wearing loincloths or less, some audience members were swept up in the ad hoc revolutionary moment. They left the stately University Theatre on York Street and paraded to Chapel Street, chanting exhortations that were said repeatedly during the performance:

"I don't know how to stop the wars."

"I'm not allowed to smoke marijuana."

"I'm not allowed to take my clothes off."

Gordon Rogoff was associate dean of the Yale School of Drama in 1969 and was in the audience that night. "What they were doing was deliberately provocative," says Rogoff, who is now professor adjunct of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at the school. "It was a provocation that worked because many [in the audience] took it upon themselves to take to the stage.

"There were about 40 audiences members who seemed to be taking part [out of a packed audience of about 600]," Rogoff told The Courant years later when Judith Malina of the Living Theatre returned in 2009 to give a workshop to Yale School of Drama students. Malina was 83.

In the excitement of the moment, the theater's co-founder, Malina, jumped on the shoulders of an audience member, Tom Walker, who would later join the company and become its general manager and archivist. "He carried me down York Street to a waiting paddy wagon, where the cops busted me," says Malina, delighting in the retelling of the tale.

"It was all very peaceful, participatory and lovely," says Walker. "We didn't really know where we were going. But at Chapel Street there were two police carts waiting for us and we circled the vehicles and sang 'America the Beautiful.'"

The New Haven Police arrested 10 for indecent exposure.

Robert Brustein, the dean of the School of Drama who invited The Living Theatre to Yale to perform four works after the company's "exile" in Europe, recalls "Judith was saying, 'The theater belongs to the people!' but there are still fire laws."