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Open Theatre

Viet Rock, The Serpent, Terminal, Mutation Show, Nightwalk

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Joseph O'Connor Biography to Cynthia Ozick Biography

New York City, an American theatre company; with Living Theatre, one of the two most respected avant-garde theatre companies in recent American history. From its inception in February 1963, the Open Theatre was committed to experimentation in non-naturalistic modes of theatre. Although a non-hierarchical organization, the Open Theatre is inextricably linked with the name of Joseph Chaikin, a Living Theatre actor, who became its leader and sole director in 1973, the year it closed. Its members regarded the Open Theatre as both a production company and an experimental laboratory, and held its workshop innovations to be as important as its public productions. It staged one-act and full-length plays by members of the company and others, but its most memorable work was in five full-length collaborative plays, Viet Rock, principally written by Megan Terry, The Serpent by Jean-Claude van Itallie, Terminal, Mutation Show, and Nightwalk, co-authored by Megan Terry, Sam Shepard, and Jean-Claude van Itallie. The Open Theatre was conceived as a non-commercial agency, a vital experiment in communal theatre which did not pay its members, nor charge its audience for its workshop performances. The commercial success of the above five productions finally led Chaikin to propose its demise, and its final performance was of Nightwalk at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on 1 December 1973.

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