Julian Beck

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Julian Beck
JulianBeck.jpg
Julian Beck
(Photo: Charles Rotmil)
Born (1925-05-31)May 31, 1925
Washington Heights, New York
Died September 14, 1985(1985-09-14) (aged 60)
New York City, New York
Occupation Film actor, stage actor, stage director, poet, painter
Spouse(s) Judith Malina (2 children)

Julian Beck (May 31, 1925 – September 14, 1985) was an American actor, director, poet, and painter. He is best known for co-founding and directing The Living Theatre, as well as his role as Kane the evil preacher in the 1986 movie Poltergeist II: The Other Side.

Early life[edit]

Beck was born in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in New York City, the son of Mabel Lucille (née Blum), a teacher, and Irving Beck, a businessman.[1] He briefly attended Yale University, but dropped out to pursue writing and art. He was an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1940s, but his career turned upon meeting his future wife. In 1943, he met Judith Malina (born 1926) and quickly came to share her passion for theatre; they founded The Living Theatre in 1947.

Career[edit]

Beck co-directed the Living Theatre until his death. The group's primary influence was Antonin Artaud, who espoused the Theatre of Cruelty, which was supposed to shock the audience out of complacency. This took different forms. In one example, from Jack Gelber's The Connection, a drama about drug addiction, actors playing junkies wandered the audience demanding money for a fix. The Living Theatre moved out of New York in 1964, after the Internal Revenue Service shut it down when Beck failed to pay $23,000 in back taxes. After a sensational trial, in which Beck and Malina represented themselves, they were found guilty by a jury.[citation needed]

Beck's philosophy of theatre carried over into his life. He once said, "We insisted on experimentation that was an image for a changing society. If one can experiment in theatre, one can experiment in life." He was indicted a dozen times on three continents for charges such as disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, possession of narcotics, and failing to participate in a civil defense drill.[citation needed]

Besides his theatre work, Beck published several volumes of poetry reflecting his anarchist beliefs, two non-fiction books: The Life of the Theatre and Theandric and had several film appearances, with small roles in Emergency, Oedipus Rex, The Cotton Club, 9½ Weeks, and his role in Poltergeist II: The Other Side.

In 1970 Beck's work was denounced alongside Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett by Nëndori, the literary monthly of Albania, for supposedly being "inundated by mysticism and pornography."[2]

Personal life[edit]

Beck and Malina were life partners in an open marriage, and Beck had a long-term relationship with Ilion Troya, a male actor in the company. Malina and Beck shared a lover in Lester Schwartz, a bisexual shipyard worker who was the third husband of Andy Warhol acolyte Dorothy Podber.[3] Beck and Malina had "two offstage children", Garrick and Isha.

Death[edit]

Beck was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1983, and died two years later at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, aged 60.[4] He was survived by his wife, their two children, Garrick and Isha, and a brother. He was interred at Cedar Park Cemetery, in Emerson, New Jersey.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Julian Beck Film Reference biography
  2. ^ Peter R. Prifti. Socialist Albania since 1944: Domestic and Foreign Developments. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 1978. p. 140.
  3. ^ Obituary of Dorothy Podber, The Daily Telegraph, February 26, 2008
  4. ^ "Julian Beck, 60, is dead; Founded Living Theater", Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times, September 17, 1985

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]