Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE ORIGINAL EARTHLIGHT CAME TOGETHER IN A MAFIA STOREFRONT AND IT WAS CALLED TREEHOUSE II.



S.RACHEL LOVEY originally known as SHEILA COHEN.

The year before this Earthlight business began was the luckiest year of my life. I had been teaching and directing an afternoon theatre arts program in New Haven, Connecticut. Considered so politically correct(a word not yet invented in 69) that the avant-garde of the Yale Drama School invited me in to their inner circle and I started doing plays with them and taking classes with Joseph Papp. I ultimately moved to NYC and walked past 8Th ave and 23rd streets to catch the subway and a man stopped me and said "I can't let you just walk out of my life" and we were together for a while, I had a tiny part in an off-Broadway show with the fabulous character actor Elsa Raven. A snooty, self-absorbed, actress played the lead and had a starring role on Broadway as well. She had a nervous breakdown and I became the leading lady. My ex-roommate in New Haven, who had stolen a few of my boyfriends as I remember it, was recovering from her own nervous breakdown and told me about a friend of hers who was starting a Theatre in Little Italy on Mulberry Street and that I should look her up.


ALLAN MANN

Allan Mann, the originator of Earthlight, became the director and had a profound influence on the writing and spiritual basis of the group. He was into "new age" and "new thinking" before they even coined the phrases. Later on as the theatre company became somewhat of a commune as well as a theatre, there would be some conflicts as to who was in charge...Allan's original idea came from an inspiration from Robert Heinlein, science fiction writer "Stranger in a Strange Land," who believed theatre could raise the planet's consciousness, also the Living Theatre, who created a communal universe through sound and movement, and The Committee, who performed funny and finely crafted improv and scripted bits. Allen had been living in Los Angeles the year before Earthlight (Treehouse II is what it was called originally) working with The Committee and Motown. He had graduated from Columbia University with a masters at Sarah Lawrence. His book "A New View, A Modern Mystical Vision" will soon be published.


JANE RICHARDSON MACK.

Jane Richardson (Mack), Allan's partner and girlfriend at the time had been an actress at the New School with Joseph Chaiken of the Open Theatre. Her artistry and spirituality had a huge impact on the style, movement and design of our eventual show. She had a profound influence on me as a woman, she could add style to making a pot of lentil for a group of 20 or putting a ribbon around a bed sheet and making it look sexy. For some reason, I remembered to this day, that her father was a sea captain. She and Allan met at the Living Theater and decided to form a Theatre. She currently is a singer and interior designer living in the Bay Area, and is also an artist working in Verree Eglomise, mirror embedded design.

ROY ARENELLA

Roy Arenella, an internationally know photographer-artist, who's taken many of the pictures that you see here on this Blog, had a brother who had roomed with Allan Mann in college.(I have not totally verified this next section but don't forget, I remembered Jane's father was a sea captain and this is the way I've always told the story so I must be right)Roy and some other Italian friends of his, one of which had been a friend of my roommates in New Haven, grew up on Long Island. Their parents had done well and adopted an appropriate middle class life style, Roy and his cronies were annoyed somewhat and they move to a few apartments in Little Italy in Mulberry Street to find a more authentic Italian lifestyle and one that would be less plastic and retain more of the old Italian culture. On the other hand, they were interested in bringing more contemporary art and even a theatre to the neighborhood.


This was the Little Italy of the late 60's.....like in the Godfather. No sweet cafes, no trendy theatre, no boutiques;just mothers yelling out the windows for their kids, an occasional St. Genaro's festival, but mostly mafia storefronts. Mafia storefronts, sometimes set up to look like legit businesses and sometimes not. It was amongst these mafia storefronts that we opened up our theatre, which would eventually be called Earthlight, originally we called it "Tree House II". And if you must tie it into Woodstock imagery, Treehouse II was our version of Jonie Mitchell's "trying to get back to the garden" only we were not going all the way back to the garden....just to the treehouse".


EARTHLIGHT ARRIVES IN BETHEL AT THE NOW INFAMOUS EL MONACO MOTEL. S. RACHEL LOVEY ON THE RIGHT SITTING NEXT TO THE POST AND THE SHIRTLESS EARTHLIGHTER!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Magical Tie-Dyed Tour in Review



Audiences responded well all over the country to Earthlight.. First at White Lake where the Woodstock Festival took place. "Earthlight, an avant-garde theatre, was a joyfully muddy success during the Aquarian Exposition at Bethel....THE TIMES HERALD RECORD. In Phoenix "the troupe makes it their business to spread joy,light and love in exhilerating amounts..a perfect balance of theatrical tightness and free form expression", THE PHOENIX. In Los Angeles,"nothing less than pure essential theatre...incisively and with great awareness, they glorified humanity...a reminder of what modern theatre is all about." The LA TIMES. In New York "They incorporate modern legit techniques, minus the humorlessness and self importance which often afflicts similar enterprises. They enjoy themselves on stage, and their pleasure is communicated to the audience."VARIETY"


Being involved with Woodstock was a catalyst for our later success, But more importantly, we were more than a show with hired actors. We left our homes in New York, Ohio, Cleveland and lived that 60's counter-culture life. Traveled around on a hippie bus, cooked brown rice and vegetables for one another, got into a big circle and chanted "OM", we are one, and even believed it for a time. We did what all good hippies are supposed to do, party and drug test....but always kept in mind that raising our and others consciousness was a worthy pastime and in the mean time we did "hatha yoga", Grotowski and other weird theatrical movements and exercises, and fought with each other like real families do. We tried to find love that was spiritual, sexual, orgiastic and good for the environment and not believe in war, greed, or in anyone over 30. All this time we were trying to make home made bread and tie-dye smocks and translate our lives into a valid theatrical experience. Those critics listed as well as many others thought we did just that.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mudslinging and Naked Rumors!


(Photo is of Earthlight from The Photography Exhibition at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre, 1970)

I am getting a hold of more and more Earthlight Theatre people. You can see from this picture that we were a loving group. There is some discussion, that I will only mention briefly at this time that Earthlighters were always taking off their clothes. We lived in an era that taking off your clothes was normal, particularly on stage i.e. "Hair", "Oh Calcutta", and alright, one night after Woodstock. Earthlight did a naked show at the "Open Theatre" in New York City, c'mon why do you think it was called the "Open" Theatre? You can see in these pictures we mostly just looked like we were naked. When you're wearing tie-dyed loincloths, it looks like your naked with big black sores all over your body. Maybe that's where the rumor started that we threw mud at each other while we were naked.

Another rumor I read about on the Internet is that we yelled at the audience. This must have been started because of one Theatre piece that we did called "Hippie/Straight"(Straight back then meant conservative). We split the stage and/or the campground space, on one side were the straight people, one person was typing away like she was in a office, another Motherly type was ironing, and then a man shaving.. On the other side were the hippies, one doing yoga, one picking flowers, and one smoking a joint. Then they go after each other with slogans. The Straight People would yell; "America love it or leave it." Hippies would yell "Make Love Not War." Straights would yell "Get a job". Hippies would shout, "Get a Life." "Get washed" "Get real: etc., As we started moving toward each other I would come running through them, a la Ethel Merman singing "Grab your coat and get your hat,leave your worries on the door step, Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street", and soon from the left to the right, hippies and straights, joined in with me, we ended up in a chorus line...kicking up our feet just like the Rockettes!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blessings, Swami Satchidananda, and L.S.D.'s Cousin

A near miss was avoided for me at the beginning of the Festival itself .......maybe it was divine intervention, good karma, or.... matching robes. Earthlight Theatre is up on stage with Swami Satchidananda who is about to give the opening meditation and blessing..I'm sure you've seen the famous photo of this, we were practicing yogis.....well, we knew an asana (a yoga pose) or two. We were all wearing gold robes with matching gold tie-dye loincloths underneath. The Swami does not have the matching loincloths; just the robe. We were like his little neophytes, his followers, his groupies....his Swam-ettes.

So I'm late and I just come flying down from the back of the audience. A Security guy says "you can't go on...they're already on stage." I'm in disbelief. "What do you mean, I can't go on?, I'm with that group...can't you tell?..I have the same gold robes they have...I have the matching tie-dye loincloths underneath!" I ultimately did get a chance to be a part of this historic blessing and meditation. Some say that Swami Satchidananda "set the vibration for the festival". Earthlight remained connected to that energy through out that summer of love, our subsequent national tour, and off-Broadway run. And of all things, we were partially produced by the same folks that managed the Swami.

By the way this was our second chance at blessing the Woodstock festival. A week before the festival, in a then empty field, Earthlight rehearsed their off-beat show and blessed the space. That very space that would fill up with half a million strong. Yes, we blessed Max Yasgur's farm twice, hallowed ground for the counter culture and sixties generation. I never realized the signifance of this until many years later. Of course, at this first blessing, at the then empty Yasgur's field, we were not under the influence of the Swami this time, but a drug called STP, sounds like transmission fluid to me. It's a drug I had never heard of before or after. I was told "it's a cousin of LSD, only stranger". I personally never did that many drugs. But I always made the most of the drugs I did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Original Woodstock Performer is Missing...from her dreams.

This "missing the boat" phenomenon is not only occurring in my conscious life but in my subconscious life as well. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing from my own dreams. In a recurring dream I have, I'm supposed to be on the TONIGHT SHOW, but they can't find me. I'm waiting in the green room to be called. They keep yelling "Ms. Lovey, Ms. Lovey." And I keep saying, "I'm here, I'm here."...I'm never found and Bette Midler goes on as my replacement.

Another dream is about yet another movie I'm missing from. Only it's my father's film, an honest, unambitious lawyer, underwear salesman and sometimes poet who's producing the film. Someone comes running up to my Dad and says "Albert, how come you didn't use your younger daughter in the film? He says, "I'm really not that familiar with her work"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Earthlight Girl

I procrastinated and agonized over the title of this blog. I'm a double Pisces with my moon in Gemini which means I'm very good at procrastinating and agonizing.

I just love the idea of "The Tie-Dyed Diaries." It gives me such a rush. But then I'm easy that way.......that's how we folks from the 60's are. Notice that we're the only generation that says "I'm from the 60's" rather than say "I'm from Boston or L.A."......which is where I'm actually from. Born in Boston and I have lived in LA for the last 40 years. Three weeks after I performed with Earthlight Theatre at the Woodstock Festival in '69 , we bought a bus with the one-thousand dollars we received as payment and moved out to California,
and, of course, we painted the bus with blue and turquoise clouds.

"The Missing Woodstock Stories" refers to the obvious.....and then again "missing" could refer to parts of stories that hippies who were at Woodstock can't remember because it was too long ago, we were too stoned, and we're just too old. You know that cliche slogan, "if you remember the 60's you weren't really there।"

I feel I'm beating this "missing" thing into the ground, but there's no one to stop me. Missing are the people that never made it to Woodstock and had important things to say about it; like Joni Mitchell who wrote the festival's national anthem "Woodstock", and a guy named Ed bicycling on Venice beach last week that I met, who claimed "Woodstock changed the universe."

Lastly, "missing" are those that are no longer with us and have moved on to that great never ending summer of love in the sky. O.K. so, missing also refers to the fact that I'm only represented in Ang Lee's feature film "Taking Woodstock" as "Earthlight girl". Can you imagine... Me? S. Rachel Lovey, veteran actor, stand-up comic & producer, who was honored and roasted at the Friar's Club, elder states person of Woodstock (hell anyone who was at Woodstock is now an elder states person except for the babies that were born there.) is not actually in the movie. I'm missing! The Earthlight Theatre troupe was an integral part of the organization of The Woodstock Festival, and I'm missing?