The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

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

Shami Chaikin

Shami Chaikin

Born on Tuesday, April 21, 1931

Interviewed on: Friday, September 19, 2014
Location: Her Home
Interviewed by: Karen Ludwig
Interview #12
"Working with a company you get to create from scratch, it’s your theatre piece…’Get paid?’ – we chipped in for the rental of the space."
Shami Chaikin Highlights
Video Length: 5 Minutes, 28 Seconds
Shami Chaikin Interview
Video Length: 1 Hour, 2 Minutes

Shami Chaikin is an actress who began working Off-Broadway in the late 1960’s. Her Off-Broadway acting credits include: VIET ROCK (1966), TERMINAL (1970), THE SERPENT: A CEREMONY (1970), MYSTERY PLAY (1973), THE DYBBUK (1977), THE HAGGADAH, A PASSOVER CANTATA (1980/1981), ANTIGONE (1982), EARLY WARNINGS (1983), UNCLE VANYA (1983), FIVE WOMEN IN A CHAPEL (1991), and I CAN’T REMEMBER ANYTHING/THE LAST YANKEE (1998). She also wrote a play called SELMA, which premiered at the Theater for the New City in 1981. The play is about a woman named Selma who turns 50 and prepares a celebratory dinner with four of her friends. Chaikin currently writes for and performs with Westbeth Artists Housing and Center for the Arts.

Chaikin was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Des Moines during her childhood. Like her brother, Joseph Chaikin, she had a passion for theatre. In 1963, Joseph founded The Open Theater, which allowed artists to experiment with unconventional and organic drama techniques. Joseph directed his sister in a few of the company’s productions, such as THE SERPENT: A CEREMONY, ANTIGONE, UNCLE VANYA, and THE DYBBUK. She also performed in the tours of VIET ROCK, MUTATION SHOW (1973), and NIGHTWALK (1974). She was awarded a TNC Villager Award for Excellence in Theatre for her performance in Jean-Claude van Itallie’s BAG LADY (1979). Today, Chaikin continues to collaborate with long-time friend and director Karen Ludwig on poems and short plays.

Mentioned in Interview

Joseph Chaikin, The Open Theater, Theater for the New City, THE SERPENT, THE DYBBUK, MYSTERY PLAY, VIET ROCK, MUTATION SHOW, NIGHTWALK