George Bartenieff

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George Bartenieff
Born (1933-01-24) January 24, 1933 (age 86)
CitizenshipUnited States
Occupationstage and film actor
Years active1964–present
Spouse(s)Karen Malpede

George Bartenieff (born January 24, 1933 in Berlin, Germany) is a German-American stage and film actor. He is noted both for his character roles[1] in commercial and non-commercial films and on television, and for his work in the avant-garde theatre and performance world of downtown Manhattan, New York City in the 1960s-1970s. He is a co-founder of the Theatre for the New City, and of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.[1]

Bartenieff appeared in nine shows on Broadway, in 19 productions Off-Broadway, in 18 films and in 21 television episodes for 14 different programs.[2][3][4] He is the recipient of two Obie Awards[5] and a Drama Desk Award.

As of 2003, Bartenieff was also teaching at the City University of New York, and in a high school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Bartenieff made his stage debut at the age of 14 in the 1947 Broadway theatre production The Whole World Over, directed by Harold Clurman.[5] After appearing in a few shows on Broadway, Bartenieff went to London for training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he "fell in love" with the works of Shakespeare.[5] His intention at the time was to be a classical actor, and his hero was Laurence Olivier.[5]

When Bartenieff returned to the United States, he worked with Andre Gregory's Theatre for the Living Arts in Philadelphia. For a number of years in the 1960s, Bartenieff worked with Gregory in Philadelphia, on Broadway, for Joe Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, and in "cross-disciplinary" showcases at the Judson Poets Theatre at the Judson Church in Greenwich Village.[5]

Bartenieff also began to do "street theatre" at this time. One production, with writer/carpenter/landscape artist Bib Nichols, protested against the Lower Manhattan Expressway which Robert Moses wanted to build across the island. Their production played in the street in the neighborhoods which would be affected by the highway, Little Italy and the West Village; the set was constructed in such a way that if a car came by, it would break apart to allow the vehicle to proceed.[5]

In 1970, feeling that the Judson Poets Theatre had passed its peak, four artists involved in it – Bartenieff, his wife at the time, dancer Crystal Field, director Larry Kornfield and Theo Barnes – wanted to start their own "cross-disciplinary theater which emphasized poetic language", according to Bartenieff. The Westbeth Artists Community had just started at the time, and a large space appropriate for performance became available in the complex. This was the beginning of Theatre for the New City, which still exists, albeit in other quarters.[5] TNC not only did their own work, they invited other companies, such as Mabou Mines, the Talking Band, and Richard Foreman's company, to perform there. They also mounted street theatre productions, with the purpose of making "the theater part of the community, and the community part of the theater."[5]

Bartenieff stayed with Theatre for the New City for 24 years – performing, directing or producing more than 900 new American plays[1] – but left when he began to feel he was spending more time on the financial problems of the company than he was on his craft. "I had to return," said Bartenieff, "to my own work, from being the Cecil B. DeMille of off-off-Broadway to the idea that small is more." To this end, he collaborated with his wife, playwright and director Karen Malpede, to create a one-man show, I Will Bear Witness, an adaptation of the memoirs of Victor Klemperer, which documented daily life as a Jewish professor in Nazi Germany.[5] This production was the beginning of Bartenieff and Malpede's Theater Three Collaborative, which as of 2012 was 17 years old.[1]

Stage productions[edit]









Bartenieff has appeared in episodes of Crime Story (1987), Law & Order (6 episodes, 1993-2004), New York Undercover (1995), From the Earth to the Moon (1998), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2002), American Masters (2 episodes, 2003 & 2007), Rescue Me (2004), Conviction (2006), 30 Rock (2009), Curb Your Enthusiasm (2011), Elementary (2013) and Zero Hour (2013).

In addition, he has appeared in several made for TV movies:

  • At Mother's Request (1987) as Mr. Coles
  • On Seventh Avenue (1996) as Moe Bick

and in the Great Performances production of Paradise Lost (1971).[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1977, Theatre for the New City, of which Bartenieff was then co-director, won a Special Citation Obie Award for Sustained Excellence.[6] Personally, Bartenieff won a 2001 Obie for his performance in his one-act play, I Will Bear Witness[7] and a 2006 Drama Desk Award for his performance in Stuff Happens[8]



External links[edit]