Ellen Stewart, Founder/Director of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, passed away on January 13, 2011 at the age of 91. She was an extraordinary person and a visionary leader in the arts, producing work that was ahead of her time. A theater pioneer, she introduced unusual work to the stage - often low-budget and experimental productions, now known as Off-Off Broadway. It was with this foresight and bold willingness to take risks that she presented the work of the Polish Theatre and many other international artists in America, which drew criticism and sometimes resulted in the loss of public funding for her productions.
Ellen fostered relationships with arts communities all over the world which allowed La MaMa to provide workshops with renowned international artists such as Theater Director Peter Brook, or Andrei Şerban, along with LaMaMa Chinatown -which later evolved into Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, and H.T. Chen & Dancers helping give a voice to Asian artists in New York City. La MaMa proved to be a fertile ground for artistic collaborations on an international level that impacted the NYC arts communities.
Ellen was a founding board member of H.T. Dance Company/Chen Dance Center and was very proud of the work being created and presented in lower Manhattan and throughout the world. She followed the careers of her many “babies” and holds a special place in all of our hearts. Her legacy will go forth whenever we decide to take the road not taken, to give back, to care, and every time we step on stage.
On behalf of the artists, staff and Board of Chen Dance Center, we thank Ellen Stewart for her generous spirit, tough motherly love, and her long and vibrant life in the arts.