The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

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

Mari-Claire Charba

Mari-Claire Charba

Actress, Performance Artist, Painter

Interviewed on: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #98
"My motivation was not to perform, but to create. Theatre reflects the moment."
Mari-Claire Charba Highlights
Video Length: 5 Minutes, 50 Seconds
Mari-Claire Charba Interview Part One
Video Length: 1 Hour, 55 Minutes
Mari-Claire Charba Interview Part Two
Video Length: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes

Mari-Claire Charba is an actress and artist who was a founding member of the La Mama Repertory Troupe, led by Tom O’Horgan. With the La Mama Troupe, she performed in plays in New York City as well as throughout Europe, in cities such as Paris and Copenhagen, in addition to the O’Neill, Spoleto, Frankfurt and Edinburgh Theatre Festivals. She has appeared Off-Broadway in: THE BAPTISM (1964), 6 FROM LA MAMA, which included BIRDBATH, CHICAGO, THE RECLUSE, THIS IS THE RILL SPEAKING,and WAR (1966); TOM PAINE (1968), and FUTZ! (1968). Her Off-Off-Broadway credits include: THE LOWER DEPTHS (1964), THE GENERAL RETURNS FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER (1963), THE WHITE WHORE AND THE BIT PLAYER (1964), THE MAIDS (1965), AND NOW THE WEATHER (1965), THE HESSIAN CORPORAL (1966), TIMES SQUARE (1967), MELODRAMA PLAY (1967), CHANGES (1968), and MYTH OR MAYBE METH (1969), and TRY TRY (1969) . She has appeared in the works of American playwrights such as Tom Eyen, Frank O’Hara, LeRoi Jones, Sam Shepard, and Lanford Wilson. For her work in BIRDBATH, she won an Obie Award for Distinguished Performance.

Mari-Claire Charba was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She began her acting career performing with her high school’s drama club and appearing on local television. She moved to Chicago to study fashion, and a year later moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. She went on to create her own performance art pieces, which were presented at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, Studio Appia in Brussels, and The Kitchen in NYC. She received her BA in Art from Hunter College, where she also attended graduate school. Now, as mixed media artist she regularly gives lectures on the experimental theatre movement at the Woodstock Artist Association and Museum. In 2017, she received an Acker Award for her work in the Avant-Garde. 

Mentioned in Interview

John Bakos, Jacque Lynn Colton, Robert DeNiro, Robert Downey, Tom Eyen, Frederic Forrest, Paul Foster, James Gossage, Elsa Gress, Helen Hanft, LeRoi Jones, Sally Kirkland, Victor LiPari, Theodore Mann, Taylor Mead, Leonard Melfi, Harvey Milk, Kevin O’Connor, Frank O’Hara, Tom O’Horgan, H.M. Kotoukas, Rochelle Owens, Beth Porter, Michael Warren Powell, Sam Shepard, Ellen Stewart, Robert Thirkield, Tiny Tim, Jean Claude Van Itallie, Andy Warhol, Lanford Wilson, Clifford Wright, Caffe Cino, Judson Poets Theatre, La MaMa E.T.C., Lucille Lortel Theatre, Martinique Theatre, Stage 73, Actor’s Studio Director’s Unit, THE BAPTISM, BIRDBATH, CHICAGO, FUTZ!, 6 FROM LA MAMA, TOM PAINE, THE RECLUSE, THIS IS THE RILL SPEAKING, WAR