cover of The Diaries of Judith Malina

The Diaries of Judith Malina, 1958-1971 publishes for the first time the unpublished diaries of anarchist Jewish German-American theatre director Judith Malina (1926-2015). Malina was a stage director, actor, and activist who co-founded The Living Theatre in 1947 with her husband Julian Beck. Malina is a major figure in 20th century theatre history in places including the U.S., Brazil, France, Italy, and Germany. She made theatre as a way to engage in revolutionary activist work and she was a committed pacifist. Her exquisite and detailed diaries showcase her wit, observations, cultural commentary, deep self-reflection, and humor. In these diaries, she chronicles not only her life and that of her theatre, but vivid analyses of politics and culture and the people with whom she worked, studied, and socialized: Merce Cunningham, Salvador Dali, Martin Buber, Maya Deren, John Lennon, Jean-Louis Barrault, Allen Ginsberg, Martin Sheen, Erwin Piscator, James Agee, the Berrigan brothers, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. Her diaries are dazzling primary sources that speak to her artistic practice and life. She edited two versions of her diaries (1947-57, Grove Press 1984; 1968-69; Random House 1972) that are significant books in both theatre history and literary studies. These editions of her unpublished diaries, prepared with the support of the Malina Estate, are the long-awaited follow-ups to these beloved volumes.

Malina’s vivid, beautifully-written diaries tell the story of her life in activism and art. They stir feelings and offer a chance for readers to revel in her vibrant descriptions of life, culture, art, and politics. Malina used theatre as a way to engage in revolutionary activist work; her diaries tell the story of her theatre company and its decades of defiance against capitalism and commercialism, and the struggles of making art to serve as a way to resist. These diaries resonate deeply now during ongoing struggles for racial and class justice and against capitalism. The diaries concurrently tell the story of Malina as a woman, mother, lover, and observer of and participant in a vibrant international scene of arts and politics. The Living Theatre is the oldest still-existing experimental theatre in the U.S., and is known for their rejection of capitalism and their embrace of theatre as a tool to support activism. Malina is known for her exceptionally driven work as a stage director at a time when women were not accepted as professional directors, her devoted life in anarchism, and her thrilling work as an actor. She lived a bold life against norms, in non-monogamy, non-traditional motherhood, radical Judaism, and pacificism. To her, theatre was a way to try to build a better world, and she started The Living Theatre with Julian Beck in service of this goal. Her diaries record her singular honesty and fearlessness, and vivid lyrical descriptions of her surroundings. 

The critical introduction to this project situates Malina’s legacy in theatre history, discusses the influence of her theatre, examines the genre of diary-keeping, and spotlights Malina’s work as an artist, activist, and diarist.

"This long awaited, fascinating volume, The Diaries of Judith Malina, 1958-1971, goes far in filling the gap in our understanding of and appreciation for the unique voice, experiences, achievements and perspectives of Judith Malina, the passionate artist-activist and cofounder of The Living Theatre, a groundbreaking ensemble that landed at the center of the zeitgeist during the decade these diaries span. In Malina’s intimate, sharply etched and riveting chronicles, astutely and sensitively edited by Kate Bredeson, we can "feel alongside her in the moment" as Bredeson writes in her illuminating, strongly argued introduction, tracking an extraordinary life of/in the theatre that can teach us volumes about a revolutionary time not so different from our own."
- Cindy Rosenthal, Professor of Drama and Dance at Hofstra University.  
"This thrilling new installment in the publication of Judith Malina’s diaries brings readers into a tumultuous, largely nomadic, highly creative, and often contentious period of The Living Theatre. While the company constantly grapples with cops, creditors, critics, and the conflicts of communal living, this visionary artist also invents new forms, develops theories of political theater, exalts and agonizes over love affairs, and gives birth and tends to a daughter. Her sparkling, pithy descriptions of places ("gray roofs glowing in Paris"; "the busy vegetation of Cefalù") and people (Genet, Grotowski, Dorothy Day . . . ) bring every encounter to vivid life, and her honest questioning of all assumptions -- except her commitment to pacifism, whether audience members lift her up in triumph or spit in her face -- never cease to inspire. I can’t wait for the next volume."
- Professor Alisa Solomon, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
"Judith Malina was an extraordinary artist whose copious diaries reveal her struggle between a love of the world and a desire to revolutionize it. At this moment in history, her soulfulness and fierce honesty, joined to radical politics and ideals, appear as a timely gift to a world theatre community searching for inspirational figures. In its use of archival material and reflections on the diary as a literary form, Kate Bredeson’s Introduction opens up new perspectives on this great woman of the American theatre who embraced livingness in all its splendor and turmoil in pursuit of her vision."
- Bonnie Marranca, editor, PAJ: a journal of performance and art, and author of Timelines: writings and conversations, Performance Histories, Ecologies of Theatre.

This project is possible due to support from:

NEH Summer Stipend
Edith and Richard French Visiting Research Fellowship, Beinecke Library
New York Public Library Short Term Fellowship
American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) Research Fellowship
Travis Bogard Residency at Tao House
Dora Maar House Residency and Fellowship
Caldera Artist Residency
Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency
Reed College Stillman Drake Awards
Reed College Summer Scholarship Awards