Mabou Mines is an avant-garde theater company in the East Village that believes in a drama of fusion. That is to say, a drama in which virtually anything—religion, politics, sociology, anthropology, even biology and physics—can be considered a proper mode of discourse when partnered with camp, mime, music, poetry and visual art. Years before "performance art" became a popular form, Mabou Mines was a performance company. It has always taken as fundamental the principle that life is itself performance, that the study and practice of one is the study and practice of the other.
Mabou Mines' six current artistic directors pursue the vision of its founding artists—JoAnne Akalaitis, Lee Breuer, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech and David Warrilow—by using fresh perspectives to re-explore classic theatrical works and create new ones.
In Lee Breuer's most recent deconstructed classic, Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, the male characters were all played by actors 3 feet 4 inches to 4 feet 5 inches tall. The characters Nora and Kristine however were dissimilarly tall. Nothing dramatizes Ibsen's patriarchal point more clearly, nor squeezes from it heretofore unseen levels of merriment, than the image of these little men dominating women twice their size. Eve Beglarian's piano concerti, inspired by Edvard Grieg, accompany each scene, while Martha Clarke's choreography further deconstructs the melodramatic posturing into dance.
Red Beads, by contrast, was a Gothic coming-of-age fairy tale opera exploring new techniques in wind-animated puppetry. A poetic adaptation of the traditional Siberian folktale about a young girl's passage from girl to woman, Red Beads employed not only puppetry but surrealist imagery and choreography based on the Japanese dance form Ninjo Buryo. Seven musicians (oboe, harp, cello, keyboards, violin and flute) accompanied three vocalists who sang the libretto of the three main characters: mother, daughter and father.
Since its founding in 1970, Mabou Mines has produced eight pieces by Samuel Beckett, six of which have been world premieres of texts not originally written for the theater. These productions have led to Mabou Mines' recognition among the foremost interpreters of Beckett's work.
Works by company members have been nominated for such prestigious awards as the Tony, the Pulitzer Prize and the Helen Hayes American Theater Award. In addition, company members have received Guggenheim Fellowships, Rockefeller Playwriting Fellowships, a CAPS award, a Japan-US Friendship Commission Fellowship and Fulbright Fellowships, including the 40th Anniversary Beckett Chair at Trinity College, Dublin.