Squat Theatre

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Squat Company in Paris.jpg
Squat Theatre Company Together in Paris, Place des Abbesses
256 W. 23rd. St. NY
SQUAT THEATRE in front.png
Squat Theatre_23rd St. NY

Squat Theatre is a Hungarian company that founded an experimental theater in Budapest. Squat Theatre moved to 256 W 23rd St., near the Chelsea Hotel, their first home in New York, where they lived and worked from 1977 to 1984. Plays were staged in their storefront window with 23rd street as a backdrop which became their trademark.


Founded by artists in the late 1960s, Squat Theatre began during the Cold War in Budapest. Members of the group were expelled from Hungary in the early 1970s for their views. They were known as Kassak Studio. After spending a year working in Paris and Rotterdam they moved to 23rd. Street, NY in 1977. Founding members who immigrated to Paris (shown in the photograph) were: Stephan Balint, Eszter Balint, Peter Berg, Eva Buchmuller, Marianne Kollar, Peter Halasz, Galus Halasz, Anna Koos, Boris Major, Rebecca Major.


The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. Staged in 1975, three men dressed in white play the roles of the sisters. It is a commentary on theatre. A prompter reads the lines, the actors repeat the words in a deadpan, expressionless monotone. There is no acting, no drama.

Andy Warhol's Last Love is a 1978 dreamscape play that contains a conceptual double take, a space within a space, a one part black and white film inserted between a two part live performance. The characters include the German left-wing militant Ulrike Meinhof, played by the child Eszter Balint, Crazy Eddy, Andy Warhol and Kathleen who performs a genuine witchcraft ritual. The initial scene, “Aliens on the Second Floor,” introduces Ulrike Meinhof as she communicates with the inhabitants of earth through the radio of the Intergalaxy 21 Revolutionary Committee. The second part is “An Imperial Message,” the black and white film projected on a sheet onto the 23rd Street storefront window. The message is Franz Kafka’s parable read by Crazy Eddy at the start of the film. Forces conspire against Andy Warhol, the Emperor's messenger, as he rides his horse through New York’s streets, Kraftwerk’s “We Are The Robots” and “Metropolis” is the soundtrack. The third part, “Interview with the Dead,” Andy interviews the witch and Ulrike Meinhof. The play ends the play when Meinhof shoots Warhol for his merits. A mylar ceiling is lowered, the audience sees its own reflection.

Pig! Child! Fire! is a 1981 re-staging of a 1977 performance based on the confessions of Nikolai Stavrogin to Father Tikhon in Dostoyesvsky's Demons. The performance includes a live goat (pig), a giant sculpture of a man hanging upside down, late-1940s gangster movies motifs, music by the German group Kraftwerk, and Antonin Artaud's incendiary letter to Andre Breton. The play takes place on the first floor of Squat Theatre's storefront on West 23rd street. A curtain is drawn and through a window we see an essential part of the performance, 23rd street. At approximately 9:30 pm a taxicab pulls up outside, a bearded man gets out, points a gun across 23rd street. A man on the other side of the street points a gun at him. Inside the theatre a woman has the first man in her gunsight. The street is filled with disturbing episodes. The bearded man walks past the window with an arm enveloped in flames. The actors present disconnected scenes: a giant puppet standing on its head, a hanging man emerging from its anus, a severed hand, a live goat and the recitation of Starvrogin's confession from the "Possessed". In the scene entitled "Dinner", a mother and children gather at the dinner table, on which rests a television set. The images on the TV screen are of the audience, the audience are performers, life is theatre, a demonstration of Squat's perennial purpose - to erase the barrier between actor and spectator.

Mr Dead and Mrs Free won an Obie Award for best new American play in 1981.


  • Wilmeth, Don B.; C. W. E. Bigsby (2000). The Cambridge History of American Theatre. Cambridge University Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-521-47204-0. 
  • Bertens, Hans (1998). International Postmodernism: Theory and Literary Practice. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 133. ISBN 90-272-3445-0. 
  • Buchmuller, Eva; Koos, Anna. Squat Theatre 1996 Artist Space ISBN 0-9636372-2-3
  • Gussow, Mel (1998). Evoking Bohemian Memories. The New York Times January 20, 1989: Section C; Page 3, Column 1; Weekend Desk. 

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