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Rachel Rosenthal and Elyse Grinstein

Art historian and critic Melinda Wortz in conversation with Rachel Rosenthal and Elyse Grinstein


Rachel Rosenthal (b. 1926) is an interdisciplinary performer who developed a revolutionary performance technique that integrates text, movement, voice, choreography, improvisation, inventive costuming, dramatic lighting and wildly imaginative sets into an unforgettable "total theater" experience. In the last twenty-five years of her performing career she presented over 40 full-scale pieces nationally & internationally.

Born in Paris of Russian parents, Rosenthal studied art, theatre and dance in Paris and N.Y. after the war with such teachers as Hans Hoffmann, Merce Cunningham, Erwin Piscator and Jean-Louis Barrault. She moved to California in 1955 where she created the experimental Instant Theatre, performing in and guiding it for ten years. She was a leading figure in the L.A. Women's Art Movement in the 1970's, co-founding WomanSpace, among other projects. During that period, her focus split between the performing and visual art world, she created and exhibited her ceramic sculptures.

In 1989, she founded The Rachel Rosenthal Company, a non-profit organization, to work collaboratively with artists from other disciplines and pass on the legacy of her pioneering form of spontaneous collaboration (the DbD "Doing by Doing" technique) through her Company's theatrical productions and performance workshops.

She has toured extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. Rosenthal has taught classes and workshops in performance since 1979, in her LA studio as well as around North America and Europe.

In 2000 she was honored by the City of Los Angeles as "a Living Cultural Treasure of Los Angeles" and, in 2001, was the recipient of the Award of Merit for Achievement in the Performing Arts from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP). Retired from the stage in 2000, Rosenthal resumed a long dormant career in visual art and is currently working in oil and watercolor. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Rosenthal is Artistic Director of a new ensemble of performers who present evenings of Total Improvisation one weekend a month in her studio space, along with guest artists from the world of visual art and music.

Elyse Grinstein is an architect and owner of Gemini GEL, a publisher of limited edition art prints based in Los Angeles.

This interview originally aired on KUSC on July 4, 1987

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