Tuesday, August 24, 2010

**RETAKING WOODSTOCK AND THE NOT SO NAKED TRUTH ABOUT EARTHLIGHT

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Comic S. Rachel Lovey, An original founding member of Earthlight Theater responds to Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock", and the depiction of The Earthlight Theater Company in the feature film.

I'd been blogging http://woodstockandearthlightrevisited.blogspot.com and bragging about my experience performing at the Woodstock Festival with the Earthlight theatre troupe. I was an original member of the company. For me it was theatrically, spiritually and romantically one of the best experiences of my life. Apparently I was not alone. NYU Washington Square Journal writes; "One leaves Earthlight a little more hopeful, refreshed psychologically and physically....Earthlight offers a common understanding, a beginning."

Although I knew Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" had "taken liberties" with the authentic Earthlight story, I was surprised to see how hostile the theater troupe was presented when I went to opening night here in Los Angeles, and my friends had to hold me down as I preceded to yell back at the screen "It didn't happen that way!"

The naked truth of "Taking Woodstock" was not the Earthlight players running around naked and removing their gold robes (it never happened, they always had the lovely tie-dyed gold loincloths on underneath) but the semi-pathetic way this delightful and critically acclaimed theater company was depicted in the movie. The LA Weekly also noticed .."as dumb a depiction of avant-garde thespians as something that Jesse Helms might have concocted." It seemed someone recreating the Earthlight theater in the movie "Taking Woodstock" may have taken that "brown acid" that everyone was told not to take at the original festival and had just not recovered.

Here's some potential rehabilitation and reality checks for Elliot Tiber and "Taking Woodstock's" distorted view of the Earthlight Theater Company;

REALITY
First of all the Earthlight theater company really did exist. From 1969-72 they were regarded as one of the premier avant-garde theater companies in the country. They started in a store front in Little Italy, then moved to White Lake.

HALLUCINATION
They did not live or do "God knows what else" (as suggested in the movie) in the barn. They rented a 6 bedroom house from Elliot Tiber for $800 for the summer and built a proper and attractive theater with the help of the community that was supposedly so hostile to them. "A joyfully muddy success during the Aquarian Exposition at Bethel," said the local Times-Herald-Record.

REALITY
They not only espoused the peace and love mantras, they incorporated them into theatrical realities, as well. We were not the viscous parasites begging for a potato as depicted in the movie. "The Earthlight troupe manages to spread joy. light and love in exhilarating amounts." Phoenix Times-Herald-Record.

HALLUCINATION
Here's a classic reality check problem...Mr.Tiber contradicts himself. In the movie "Taking Woodstock" we observe Elliot Tiber reading the paper and telling the Earthlighters that he discovered that the Woodstock Festival had lost it's Walkill site. Yet, in Elliot's original 2 books Woodstock Delirium and Knock on Woodstock p(96), Elliot writes; "The troupe's director was reading the local Times Herald Record. Suddenly he got upset and read the paper to us all. Guys, the Woodstock Festival is being thrown out of Walkill." Of course the troupe's director was Earthlight's own, Allan Mann.

REALITY
Earthlighters wore gold robes and never threw them off in a hostile manner to expose themselves..We wore gold robes because we were to go on stage with Swami Satchidananda (he wore a gold robe but not the tie-dye loincloths that we had underneath). Our director Allan and first lady Jane had suggested to Woodstock producer Michael Lang using the Swami to set a peaceful and spiritual tone and he took their advice and we connected the Swami and Michael Lang.

HALLUCINATION
In the movie, it shows Earthlight did Chekhov's Cherry Orchard in the nude. We never did Chekhov, nude or otherwise. We did Albee, Genet, Williams, and developed specific exploratory theatre techniques based on the principles of open and living theater, Jerzy Grotowski, the Committee and even Hair.....The Daily Northwestern says "the best parts of Second City, The Committee, Hair and the living theater are embodied in this young, fluid and really together
company".

REALITY
We were paid $1,000 by the Woodstock Ventures, many of whom including the producer and coordinator would hang out at the theater or the big porch at the house. We performed at the festival site as seen in the Directors Cut of the original Woodstock documentary.

We bought a bus and painted it with clouds. We did 7 US and Canadian tours, had a show in Hollywood and Venice, California for a year and also ran a year off-Broadway as a musical with a Dunhill recording group "Pure Love and Pleasure." We were part of the original "Earth Day" program and at various times opened for musicians like Billy Preston, Bonnie & Delaney and Taj Mahal.

The Los Angeles Times said "Earthlight is nothing less than pure essential theater...incisively and with great awareness they glorify humanity, a reminder of what modern theater is really all about."

After I left the theater I moved to Los Angeles permanently. I just found out this summer that this flower child picture of me has been running in dozens of magazines and galleries over the years . I'm keeping my inner flower child (even my inner hippie bus) intact, I will always be an Earthlight Chick and I am Re-taking Woodstock and the not so naked truth about the Earthlight theater company.

Lovey's blog is http://woodstockandearthlightrevisited.blogspot.com
S. Rachel Lovey is a comic, actor, blogger, and club producer and has been honored and roasted at the Friar's Club and is an original founding member of the Earthlight theatre, who were featured in Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock".
S. Rachel Lovey can be reached for correspondence and interviews at 310-926-5689 srachellovey@hotmail.com

6 comments:

  1. were you practicing satanism then too? Did you know anyone who was occult for the dark side?
    The cover and back of Pure Love Pleasure on Dunhill (a satanic label) shows some strong indications they were dark occultists. Some may laugh and dismiss because of the facade of graphics, but there are dark shadows. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. It's understandable that you wish to set the record straight about your theatre company's actual Woodstock residence. But keep in mind that the movie depicts the "Arc Light Players", not the "Earth Light". A small distinction? Maybe, but it gives the film-makers enough 'wiggle room' to take certain liberties. Maybe they simply liked the idea of a nudist theatre troupe (which probably would have been accepted by many of the actual attendees of the festival). Am I prejudiced? Perhaps - I actually have participated in nude theatre (for a one-night-only show in NYC). It was the only time I have ever gotten a standing ovation as an actor. Go figure! :-)

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    1. I was just watching the movie and the sign behind them said Earthlight Players. That's the only way I knew to look them up and why I wound up here. The sign definitely said Earthlight, in the movie Taking Woodstock, literally just saw it.

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  3. I didn't see or hear anything about "Arc Light Players" so I'm not sure what movie 'anonymous' saw. I saw Taking Woodstock, and the Earthlight players were depicted, spoken about, shown on signs, etc. Apparently not in a good light either, and that's why I went looking for you and found you here, I had a feeling the movie wasn't being honest. I'm very glad to find out the truth here :)

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  4. Follow-up - I apologize for the "Arc Light" error in my original post. I guess I simply mis-read the big sign depicted on the barn.

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  5. Did you see my question posted last night ?

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Please comment on my Blog, wheather you were at Woodstock or not..All comments are welcome!