The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

George Bartenieff

George Bartenieff

Co- Founder of Theater for the New City, Actor
Born on Tuesday, January 24, 1933

Interviewed on: Friday, March 6, 2015
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Tom Walker
Interview #29
Photo Credit: Beatriz Tiche Schiller
"The most important thing is the cultural background… of New York… because you are here, you are one of them."
George Bartenieff Highlights
Video Length: 5 Minutes, 2 Seconds
George Bartenieff Interview
Video Length: 2 Hours, 47 Minutes

George Bartenieff is an actor and co-founder of both Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative. In 1971, he founded Theater for the New City with Crystal Field, Theo Barnes, and Lawrence Kornfeld in the Westbeth Artists Community. The company moved around the city until it found its home at 155 First Avenue in 1986. Theater for the New City achieved a reputation for being an avant-garde theater. Bartenieff, feeling he was focusing more on financial matters than the craft, left the company in 1995. Then, with playwright/director Karen Malpede and performance artist Lee Nagrin, he founded Theater Three Collaborative and opened their first show, THE BEEKEEPER’S DAUGHTER, in 1995. Since then, he has starred in and produced six new plays with Malpede, including a one-man show called I WILL BEAR WITNESS (2001). Bartenieff has acted in many Off-Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including: THE BRIG (1963), HOME MOVIES/SOFTLY CONSIDER THE NEARNESS (1964), KRAPP’S LAST TAPE/THE ZOO STORY (1965), THE MEMORANDUM (1968), ROOM SERVICE (1970), DEAD END KIDS (1980), SABIMA (1996), MISALLIANCE (1997), STUFF HAPPENS (2006), ROMEO AND JULIET (2007), and THE BACCHAE (2009). He is the recipient of two OBIE Awards for acting and two for producing, as well as a Drama Desk Award.

When he was 14, Bartenieff made his stage debut in the Broadway production of The Whole World Over (1947). After studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in London, he returned to the United States and worked with Theatre for the Living Arts, New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public Theater, the Living Theatre, and the Judson Poets Theater. During his tenure with Theater for the New City, he co-founded the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. In addition to Off-Broadway, he has worked in the following Broadway productions: Montserrat (1949), The Moon Besieged (1962), The Changeling (1964), Venus Is (1966), Copout (1969), Unlikely Heroes (1971), Fiddler on the Roof (2005), and The Merchant of Venice (2013). He has also appeared in many movies and television series, such as: The Brig (1964), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), Julie & Julia (2009), “Law & Order,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Elementary.” Bartenieff teaches at HB Studios and is the Co-Artistic Director, with Karen Malpede, of Theater Three Collaborative.

Mentioned in Interview

Karen Malpede, Harold Clurman, Lillian Hellman, Julies Harris, Emlyn Williams, George Sean Nathan, Ellen Stewart, John Guare, Judith Malina, Joseph Papp, Richard Foreman, Charles Ludlam, Larry Kornfeld, Elia Kazan, Robert Whitehead, Paul Mann, Andre Gregory, Rochelle Owens, Jerome Robbins, Robert Nichols, Theo Barnes, Crystal Field, Theater Three Collaborative, Katherine Dunham Caribbean Dance Company, Group Theatre, Judson Poets Theater, Mabou Mines, The Living Theatre, La MaMa, Lincoln Center Theater, Theater for the New City, Bread and Puppet Theatre, CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS, THE BRIG, THE EXPRESSWAY, I WILL BEAR WITNESS, THE BEE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER