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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

"Tibetan Book of The Dead" At La Mama to Benefit Shantigar Rebuilding

October 20, 2008

By Nadia Kitirath
News Blaze
October 18,2008

A special performance of "Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not To Do
It Again" by Jean-Claude van Itallie will be presented one night
only, October 27, 2008 at La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex Theater), 66 East
Fourth Street, Manhattan, to support the rebuilding of the
century-old theater barn at Shantigar, the unique center for theater,
meditation and healing located in Rowe, MA.

Shantigar, in 1977 founded by playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie and
named by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, is a not-for-profit educational
foundation dedicated to the practice and exciting cross-pollination
of theater, meditation and healing. The institution offers workshops
and hosts theater artists, meditation masters, and healers. The barn
had been Shantigar's theatre center and a community meeting place,
but was lost to a fire in 2000.

The benefit evening October 27 will begin at 7:30 pm in the lobby
with a silent art auction of Asian antiques and of art by friends of
Shantigar, including Gwen Fabricant, Mary Frank, Betsy von
Furstenburg, Ronald Rand, Deb Katz and Robert Wilson.

Contributors of $350 or more will receive two tickets to the benefit
performance and an invitation to Wendy Gimbel's pre-performance
party. Contributors of $100 will receive a ticket to "The Tibetan
Book of the Dead" and a signed poster by Jean-Claude van Itallie.
Contributors of $50 will receive a ticket to the performance alone.
Reservations can be made by calling 413 339 4332 or visiting the
Shantigar website at

Anyone desiring to contribute a painting or a work of art for the
Silent Art Auction can contact Ronald Rand, Benefit Chair, at

Shantigar Foundation is a not-for-profit Foundation. Contributions
are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law and may be
mailed to: Shantigar Foundation, 63 Davenport Road, Rowe, MA 01367.

This production of "Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not To Do It
Again" is a re-investigation of the play by Pilgrim Theatre, which
was founded in Poland by Kim Mancuso and Kermit Dunkelberg, who were
students of Jerzy Grotowski. In 1997-98, Pilgrim worked for a year at
its center in Ashfield, MA, creating its first production of the
piece with eighteen artists involved. The play made a powerful impact
when performed at Boston Center for the Arts.

Western Massachusetts reviewer Gregory Lewis called the production
"...a masterpiece... van Itallie's stage adaptation of "Tibetan Book
of the Dead" is genius... an allegory of how to live and make choices
in the here and now. It renders an esoteric treatise accessible...
Kim Mancuso's skillful direction of three masterful actors--Kermit
Dunkelberg, Susan Thompson, and Court Dorsey, supported by on-stage
musician John VanEps and Steve Gorn's music--magnifies 'Tibetan Book'
to dramatis excelsior. A lovable, dead one is guided through the
'in-between place' by two angelic beings. A travel guide to the
afterlife, 'Tibetan Book' is a musical pendulum of fright and fun."

The original production of "Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not To Do
It Again" premiered in 1983 in Ellen Stewart's La MaMa Annex to great
acclaim. For this benefit, LaMama resident designer Jun Maeda has
recreated his original set: a huge ethereal skull, used by the actors
as scaffolding, built of saplings, molded by hand at Shantigar.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that to hear The Tibetan Book of the Dead
even once in this lifetime confers great blessings. Traditionally the
treatise is a manual to be read aloud to the dying by friends. It is
navigational instructions, spoken-as-you-go, for the moments
surrounding death, and the days that follow. Its loving counsel
applies to living as well as dying. In the play, the deep wisdom of
the original texts is entirely accessible even to those with no
knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism.

The performance features Court Dorsey, Kermit Dunkelberg and Susan
Thompson. It is directed by Kim Mancuso with music by John VanEps and
Steve Gorn and costumes by Patricia Spees. This performance is
presented by Shantigar in association with Pilgrim.

In December, 1999 when the careful renovations on Shantigar's
cathedral-like century-old barn were nearly complete, 175 people
celebrated the millennium in the barn. Three weeks later, the barn
burned down. Many from nearby towns came to mourn it. Today the barn
site with its old stone walls, greenery, and large stone Buddha feels
like the ruins of an ancient temple. But van Itallie asserts, "The
barn is only temporarily invisible."

Since the barn burned in 2000, summer workshops and performances have
been held in a big white tent in the woods. A large wooden shed has
housed the office and dining space. Shantigar wants to rebuild the
barn as a theater. The first step will be to build a much-needed
commercial kitchen along with an eating space and bathrooms.

The barn reconstruction is the first part of a long-term building
plan which includes an architecturally innovative and ecologically
"green" Cloud Mountain International Community Center, to house
workshop, healing, meditating, and eating spaces as well as thirty
individual dwellings, to be used by their time-share owners and by
visiting artists, teachers and participants in workshops. The
"barn-raising" campaign is also intended to raise seed money to sell
the planned thirty individual dwellings.

In 1940, Shantigar founder Jean-Claude van Itallie's Belgian family
fled the holocaust to settle on Long Island, New York. In 1948 van
Itallie's father bought the farm (now Shantigar) as an investment and
a sanctuary.

In the sixties van Itallie, a playwright in the revolutionary off
Broadway movement, drove up to the farm with Greenwich Village
theater friends on voyages of discovery and creativity. In 1968, when
his anti Vietnam war play, "America Hurrah," was a hit, he bought the
farm. It's been his home since.

In 1977, van Itallie's Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche,
retreated for a year to the farm to write his renowned Shambala
teachings. Trungpa renamed the farm "Shantigar," which means
"peaceful home." Van Itallie turned Shantigar into a not-for-profit
foundation for theater, meditation, and healing.

On October 28, The Soul of the American Actor Newspaper and CUNY's
Martin E. Segal Theatre-Graduate Center will present "The Theatre of
Jean Claude van Itallie," a day-long event celebrating the plays and
work of the man that Professor Gene Plunka, author of the book
"Jean-Claude van Itallie and the Off-Off Broadway Theater," referred
to as "the most innovative playwright in America since Eugene
O'Neill." The day-long conference will be at The City University of
New York Graduate Center at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, 365
Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. Included are scheduled afternoon
screenings of Jean-Claude van Itallie in "War, Sex and Dreams" and
Joseph Chaikin in "Struck Dumb...." Planned particpants include:
Brian Murray, Laila Robins, Angelica Torn, Ruth Maleczech, Ronald
Rand, Rosemary Quinn, Peter Goldfarb and the cast of "The Tibetan
Book of the Dead" (Court Dorsey, Kermit Dunkelberg, Susan Thompson).
With readings from many of Mr. van Itallie's master works including
"America Hurrah," "The Serpent," "Light," "Bag Lady," a screening of
"Struck Dumb" with Joseph Chaikin; the new musical MILA for which van
Itallie is writing the book, Steve Gorn the music, and Lois Walden
(who will sing a song from MILA) the lyrics; and a special dialogue
between Mr. van-Itallie and Professor William Coco. 2-6pm and 7-9pm.
Admission free. For information contact 212-817-1863.

Jean-Claude van Itallie was born in Brussels, Belgium on May 25,
1936, raised in Great Neck, Long Island, and graduated from Harvard
University in 1958. His trilogy of one-act plays, "America Hurrah,"
was hailed as the watershed off-Broadway play of the sixties. Van
Itallie was one of Ellen Stewart's original "LaMaMa playwrights." He
was principal playwright of Joe Chaikin's Open Theater and for that
group wrote what has been called the classic ensemble play, "The Serpent."

In the seventies, van Itallie wrote his frequently-produced new
English versions of the four major plays of Chekhov, published by
Applause Books, New York City: Chekhov, the Major Plays. "The Tibetan
Book of the Dead" premiered at LaMaMa in 1983 and is published by
North Atlantic Books, San Francisco. His 1985 translation of Jean
Genet's The Balcony was produced by the American Repertory Theatre in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The Traveler," van Itallie's play about an
aphasic composer, premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in
1987. "Struck Dumb," van Itallie's monologue written with/for Joseph
Chaikin, premiered at the Taper Too in Los Angeles in l988 and was
presented by The American Place Theatre in New York City in 1991. (It
is published in Best Short Plays, 199l-92.)

"Ancient Boys," van Itallie's play about a gay artist living with
AIDS, premiered at LaMaMa Annex, February, 1991. His play "Master and
Margarita," adapted from Bulgakhov's novel, was presented by Theatre
for the New City, NYC, in May, 1993.

Among van Itallie's other plays and translations are: "King of the
United States," "Bag Lady," "The Doris Plays," "The Hunter and the
Bird," "Medea" and "The Taming of Jacques."

As a performer, van Itallie appeared in 1988 in Boulder, Colorado in
"Flesh Chronicles," conceived with choreographer Nancy Spanier. He
appeared at the Art Bank in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts in "Guys
Dreamin'" in the fall of 1996. This largely autobiographical play,
written by the three actors appearing in it, had its NY debut at
LaMaMa in May, 1998. Van Itallie's one person autobiographical show,
"War, Sex and Dreams," began at the Art Bank in Shelburne Falls (with
accompanist Steve Sweeting) and had its NY debut at La MaMa.

In 2004, van Itallie's "Light" had its world premiere in Pasadena,
California at the Theatre at Boston Court. His latest play, "Fear
Itself, secrets of the White House," premiered at Theater for the New
City in NYC in 2006.

Van Itallie's book on play writing, "The Playwright's Workbook," was
published in 1997 by Applause Books, NYC. He is also a painter of
large black-on-white calligraphies and his exhibit, "Characters," was
at the Open Center Gallery in NYC in May, 1993.

Van Itallie has taught play writing and performance at Princeton,
NYU, Harvard, Yale School of Drama, Amherst, Columbia, University of
Colorado, Boulder, Naropa Institute and many other colleges. He now
teaches workshops in writing and creativity at Shantigar, in Los
Angeles and in NYC.

The honorary benefit committee is a roll call of theater notables
including Joyce Aaron, Edward Albee, Karen Allen, Lucie Arnaz, Ava
B., Darren Bagert, Alec Baldwin, Anne Bogart, Robert Brustein, Joan
Buck, Kathleen Chalfant, Tina Chen, Martha Coigney, Emilie Conrad,
Nancy Cooperstein, Billy Crudup, Lee L. Elman, Rabbi Edward and Merle
Feld, Angelina Fiordellisi, Mary Frank, Rita Fredricks, Gerald
Freedman, Barbara Gimbel, Wendy Gimbel, Peter Goldfarb, Steve Gorn,
Lee Grant, William G. Hoffman, James Houghton, Morgan Jenness, Tony
Kushner, Steven Lang, Bokara Legendre, Laurence Luckinbill, Judith
Malina, Jodie C. McDowell, Evangeline Morphos, Meredith Monk,
Patricia Neal, Paul Newman, Austin Pendleton, Steven Post, Carol Fox
Prescott, Michael Pressman, Harold Prince, Linda Purl, Roger Rees,
Mercedes Ruehl, Lisa Schubert, Marian Seldes, Mel Shapiro, Joan
Micklin Silver, Laura Simms, Ellen Stewart, David Threlfall, Tulku
Thondup, Rinpoche, Christel van Itallie, Serge Vidal, Betsy von
Furstenburg, Lois Walden, Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, Robert Wilson and
Joanne Woodward.

The Steering Committee includes Ronald Rand (chair), John Adams and
Lauren Bond. The Silent Art Auction Committee lists Gwen Bucci,
co-chair; Lil Malinich, co chair; Rebecca Damon and Audra Blaser. The
Production Committee includes Lisa Clarke, Rosemary Quinn and Harvey
Schaktman. Shantigar offers special thanks to Peter Goldfarb and
Wendy Gimbel for hosting Benefit parties. There are special thanks
also to Michael Stuart and extra special thanks, as always, to Ellen Stewart.

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