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ELLEN STEWART (1919-2011)
Founding Director of LaMama, E.T.C.


New York, NY

The Polish Cultural Institute in New York is saddened to learn of the death of experimental theatre pioneer, Ellen Stewart, Founding Director of LaMama, E.T.C., whose insight and open mind has transformed the American and the world stage over the past half century. Polish theater was only a small portion of all the things she did, but what she did was an immense contribution to contemporary Polish theatre performed in the United States and to Polish culture generally.


Ellen Stewart was instrumental in bringing Polish theatre innovators to the United States including Jerzy Grotowski for his first US workshop at New York University in 1967, and Tadeusz Kantor from the production of The Dead Class in 1979 to Today is My Birthday in 1991 shortly after Kantor's death, and she recounted her role in that history at a series of film screenings of the works of Tadeusz Kantor in 2008 and at events during The Year of Grotowski in 2009, organized by the Polish Cultural Institute.


She has been one of our most steadfast and frequent partners since the establishment of The Polish Cultural Institute in New York in 2000, providing a New York home for theatre companies including Gardzienice, Song of the Goat Theatre, The Borderland Foundation from Sejny, the dance-theatre ensemble Dada von Bzdulow, and puppet theatre artists including the Wroclaw Puppet Theatre, Opole Puppet Theatre, just this past season the Bialystok Puppet Theatre, and Anna Skubik's production of Broken Nails: A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue produced by Wicza Theatre. LaMama, E.T.C. has been a regular venue for works by the most important Polish avantgarde dramatists, including Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Witold Gombrowicz, and Slawomir Mrozek.


In 2008 she received the Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz Prize for exceptional achievement in the propagation of Polish theatre culture throughout the world, and in 2009 the Gloria Artis Award, Poland's highest honor for distinguished service to Polish culture.


Obituary, The New York Times


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