The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

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

JoAnne Akalaitis

JoAnne Akalaitis

Co-Founder of Mabou Mines, Director
Born on Tuesday, June 29, 1937

Interviewed on: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Karen Kandel
Interview #14
Photo Credit: Dana Maxson
"...There had to be something else: i.e. our own theatre…where we controlled everything, where we were artists, where we could do what we want, where we could have children."
JoAnne Akalaitis Highlights
Video Length: 4 minutes, 54 seconds
JoAnne Akalaitis Interview
Video Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

JoAnne Akalaitis is a co-founder and former Artistic Director of Mabou Mines. The company was founded in 1970, and its mission statement is “to create new theatre pieces from original texts and the theatrical use of existing texts staged from a specific point of view.” Akalaitis was also the Artistic Director of the New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public from 1991-1993. Her Off-Broadway directing credits include: DEAD END KIDS (1980), AMERICAN NOTES (1988), CYMBELINE (1989), THROUGH THE LEAVES (1990), HENRY IV, PART I (1991), ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE (1992), WOYZECK (1992), PRISONER OF LOVE (1995), ARTS & LEISURE (1996), BECKETT SHORTS (2007), and THE BACCHAE (2009). She has won four OBIE Awards for direction and one for Sustained Achievement in 1992. 

Akalaitis was born in Chicago, Illinois. She studied philosophy and pre-med at the University of Chicago. Deciding she wanted to be an actress, Akalaitis went on to study acting with the Actors’ Workshop in San Francisco, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and The Open Theater Workshop in New York, as well as with Jerzy Grotowski in France. As a director, she has worked at Lincoln Center, New York City Opera, the Goodman Theatre, the Court Theatre, Hartford Stage, and the Guthrie Theater. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Edwin Booth Award, Rosamund Gilder Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre, and a Pew Charitable Trust’s National Artist Residency Program Grant. She was also the Andrew Mellon Co-Chair of the Directing Program at The Juilliard School with Garland Wright, the Wallace Benjamin Flint and L. May Hawver Flint Professor of Drama at Bard College until 2012, and the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at Fordham University (2015).

Mentioned in Interview

Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Ruth Maleczech, Garland Wright, Julian Beck, Joseph Papp, David Warrilow, Lee Breuer, Judith Malina, Jerzy Grotowski, Samuel Beckett, Joseph Chaikin, Ellen Stewart, Joyce Aaron, Richard Schechner, Sam Shepard, Moondog, Alan Schneider, Ryszard Cieslak, Spalding Gray, Paula Cooper, Lincoln Center Theater, New York City Opera, The Juilliard School, Guthrie Theater, Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage Company, La MaMa E.T.C, BAM, Mabou Mines, NYSF/The Public, The Open Theater, THE RED HORSE ANIMATION, THE BACCHAE, WOYZECK