It all starts back in college, or maybe at a theater camp or conservatory. Maybe it is even in some off-off-off Broadway production straight out of college where everyone knew that they were better than the work they were doing. But wherever "it" begins, the genesis of all theater companies should hope to end up where Mabou Mines has. Now one of the most formidable experimental theater companies in the country, Mabou Mines, in the words of Jack Kroll of Newsweek, "has become a kind of totem in today's theater. To their peers, this New York based company represents a model of avant-garde theatricality." Few would disagree.
Mabou Mines was founded in 1970, and is now celebrating its 30th year and 20th season. Over the years they have had several homes from La MaMa (1970-1972) to the Public Theater (1975-1985) to their current home in the 122 Community Center (what most people refer to as P.S. 122) "We aren't P.S. 122--we have our own theater. We have had our own theater since 1996," exclaims Ruth Maleczech, one of the original founding members and present co-producer, "P.S. 122 and Mark Russell are our colleagues, but we have never performed in their space. P.S. 122 is a discreet producing organization and we are a presenting organization."
This might seem like a matter of semantics, but there is actually a distinct difference. Unlike P.S. 122, Mabou Mines has no artistic director; all five board members make up an artistic directorate who make all the decisions on every aspect of the group. They all sit on the board of directors, and they all wear different hats as actors, writers, designers and technicians. Basically, they are all artists instrumental to the success of the company.
Over the years the members of the company have included JoAnne Akalaitis, William Raymond, Greg Mehrten, Ellen McElduff, L. B. Dallas, Philip Glass, and David Warrilow, along with the present company members of Lee Breuer, Sharon Fogarty, Ruth Maleczech, Frederick Neumann and Terry O'Reilly. Lee Breuer and Ruth Maleczech are the only founding member still sitting on the board.
Mabou Mines have presented over 60 productions in all mediums including video, hologram, film, radio, puppets and sound experiments. They are also the recipients of countless awards, grants and fellowships. They are celebrating their 30th year with a limited-engagement encore presentation of last year's acclaimed production of Las Horas de Belen - A Book of Hours directed by Ruth Maleczech.
According to its press materials, "Las Horas de Belen is a bilingual, bi-national, bi-cultural and 'bi-aesthetic' musical theater work." Like all of Mabou Mines's work, Las Horas de Belen is a collaboration between several different artists of complimentary disciplines. Maleczech emphasizes, "When we hire a composer we don't hire a composer of music for the stage, we hire a composer for the orchestra. That's how we collaborate on all projects. We want serious artists in their respective fields."