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|Born||Ruth Sophia Reinprecht
January 8, 1939
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S
|Died||September 30, 2013
Brooklyn, New York, U.S
Ruth Maleczech (January 8, 1939 – September 30, 2013) was an American avant-garde stage actress. She won three Obie Awards for Best Actress in her career, for Hajj (1983), Through the Leaves, (1984) and Lear (1990) and an Obie Award for Design, shared with Julie Archer, for Vanishing Pictures (1980), which she also directed. Her performance as Lear was widely acclaimed: her King Lear was portrayed as an imperious Southern matriarch.
Life and career
Maleczech was born in Cleveland, Ohio as Ruth Sophia Reinprecht, to Yugoslavian immigrant parents, a steel worker and a seamstress, and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Maleczech was the first in her family to attend college, beginning theater studies at UCLA at 16. From there she went to San Francisco to work, first, with Herbert Blau at The Actor’s Workshop, then with Ronnie Davis in what became the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
In San Francisco, she met and lived with Mabou Mines co-founder Lee Breuer. In 1964, they went to Paris and for six years earned money dubbing films, sufficient to fund their burgeoning theatrical experiments. In Europe, Maleczech and Breuer met David Warrilow and fellow ex-pats JoAnne Akalaitis and Philip Glass. In France, Maleczech and Akalaitis studied with the Polish director and drama theorist Jerzy Grotowski; Maleczech also spent a month in East Berlin studying, observing rehearsals and attending performances by Bertolt Brecht’s storied Berliner Ensemble.
Returning to the U.S., Maleczech co-founded the experimental N.Y.C. theater company Mabou Mines, in 1970, along with Akalaitis, Breuer, Glass and Warrilow. Shortly thereafter they were joined by Fred Neumann, whom they had known and worked with in Europe. Maleczech collaborated on nearly every piece Mabou Mines produced. She is possessed of “a theatrical vision…antithetical to almost everything contemporary American theater is about… [She is an] inspiration as an artist, a feminist and a creative spirit” (Women in Theatre).
Maleczech directed/adapted several works: Wrong Guys, from the hard-boiled novel by Jim Strahs; Vanishing Pictures, based on Poe's Mystery of Marie Roget; Samuel Beckett's Imagination Dead Imagine (as a hologram); The Bribe by Terry O'Reilly; her own Sueños, inspired by the life of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz; Belén: A Book of Hours, written by Catherine Sasanov; and Song For New York (written by Maggie DuBris, Imelda O'Reilly, Migdalia Cruz, Karen Kandel and Patricia Spears Jones), an homage to the city that was her home for more than 40 years.
She and Breuer shared an appetite for complexity coupled with deep and abiding respect sustained their tumultuous personal and professional lives. In addition to working together for a half century, they had two children. Outside of Mabou Mines, Maleczech created Fire Works with Valeria Vasilevski and collaborated and worked with, among others, Peter Sellars, Frederick Wiseman and Martha Clarke. She appeared in numerous feature films, commercial and independent, and on television in Law & Order and ER. She was a much beloved mentor of Mabou Mines' Resident Artist Program, (Mabou Mines/Suite) which has nurtured coming generations of experimental theater artists since 1991.
In 2012 Maleczech began developing a new work, Imagining the Imaginary Invalid, using the structure and characters from Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid. Her daughter, performer/director/choreographer Clove Galilee, will continue developing the work as director.
- Best Performance, Mabou Mines Lear - 1990
- Best Performance, Hajj - 1983
- Best Performance, Through the Leaves - 1984
- Best Design (shared with Julie Archer), Vanishing Pictures - 1980
- Sustained Achievement, Mabou Mines - 1986
Villager Downtown Theater Awards
- Best Solo Performance, Hajj - 1990
- Best Director, Wrong Guys - 1981
- Best Director, Vanishing Pictures - 1980
- Best Ensemble, Shaggy Dog Animation - 1978
- For Lifetime Dedication to Not-For-Profit Theatre (2001)
- Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre: Certificate of Outstanding Merit for her “influential, pioneering role in experimental theatre” (2006)
- Edwin Booth Award: To the Artistic Directors of Mabou Mines for Contributions to Theatre (2007)
- Foundation for Contemporary Arts: Fellowship in Theater Arts (2009)
- Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre (2010)
- USA Gracie Fellow in Theater Arts by United States Artists (2010)
- Inductee (posthumously) into the Off Broadway Hall of Fame by The Off Broadway Alliance (2014)
Ruth Maleczech died at age 74 from cancer (at the home of her son Lute) in Brooklyn. She is survived by her husband Lee Breuer, son Lute (spouse: Martha Elliot), daughter Clove (spouse: Jenny Rogers), as well as sister, Patricia Adams, a brother, Francis Reinprecht nieces and nephews, and a granddaughter, Bella Breuer.
- Review of Ruth Maleczech as Lear, University of Notre Dame; accessed October 6, 2013.
- Amateau, Albert (October 17, 2013). "Ruth Maleczech, 74, a founder of avant-garde troupe". The Villager. Archived from the original on September 26, 2014. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
- "Ruth Maleczech, Beacon of Stage Avant-Garde, Dies at 74". The New York Times. October 2, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013.