Ellen Stewart Passes Away at 91

Ellen Stewart, the legendary Founder and Director of the La MaMa E.T.C. — the theatre that began in October 1961, and to this day continues to be of great importance to world culture – died on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. Ms. Stewart died of natural causes after an extended illness, according to Mia Yoo, co-artistic director of La MaMa, E.T. C. (Experimental Theatre Club).

Born November 7, 1919 in Chicago, Ms. Stewart was 91 at the time of her death. Ms. Stewart was beloved by theater artists and audiences around the world – which truly was her stage. In her 49-year tenure, La MaMa presented 3000 productions and earned countless cultural awards as it maintained the reputation established and tirelessly upheld by Ms. Stewart as a haven of off-off Broadway’s experimental performing arts community.

Ms. Stewart began her career in New York as a fashion designer and started La MaMa in 1961 when she rented a tiny basement on East 9th Street in Manhattan for $55 a month to provide her brother and his playwright friends with a space to showcase their plays. La MaMa took up residence in its original and current space at 74A E. 4 St. in 1969. In 1974, the company acquired a second space, The Annex, down the street at 66 E. 4 St. And in November 2009, on the occasion of Ms. Stewart’s 90th birthday, The Annex was officially renamed the Ellen Stewart Theatre.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, January 17 at 10 a.m. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations to La MaMa ETC can be sent to 74A E. 4 St. NY NY 10003 or can be made online at www.lamama.org.

Read the NY TIMES Obituary here.

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