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, 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, 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!