Lee Breuer, Adventurous Theater Director, Dies at 83

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Lee Breuer, Adventurous Theater Director, Dies at 83

Esser Leopold Breuer was born on February 6, 1937 in Philadelphia as the only child of the architect Joseph Breuer and the former newspaper columnist Sara Leopold Breuer.

“I always wanted a brother or a sister. I was always lonely, ”recalled Breuer in an interview in“ Getting Off: Lee Breuer on Performance ”, his 2019 book with Stephen Nunns.

It didn’t help that Mr. Breuer’s family moved frequently or that he skipped a few grades, which made him younger than his classmates. At the age of 16, he enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied English and started writing plays. Ms. Maleczech, whom he married in 1978 and with whom she would remain married until her death in 2013, despite being separated for decades and having three children with three other partners, was in one of them.

As a charismatic globetrotter who was always striving for the next project, Mr. Breuer was reluctant to think, “as he once put it, to have to be“ a good bourgeois middle class citizen ”. Boehmism was more to his liking. When he and Ms. Maleczech returned to the United States in 1970 after several years in Europe, part of the lure was the ease of six months of social assistance while doing The Red Horse Animation.

In New York, Mabou Mines initially had a permanent place in the art world. But the off-off Broadway scene drained wildly, and in 1974 the company was part of A Bunch of Experimental Theaters of New York, Inc., a fledgling alliance whose membership reads like an appeal to downtown legends: Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysterical Theater, Richard Schechner’s Performance Group, André Gregory’s Manhattan Project, Meredith Monk / The House.

The Times critic Mel Gussow soon became a champion, describing Mr. Breuer’s 1975 evening in Beckett shorts for Mabou Mines as “amazingly designed and executed”.

In contrast to many of his colleagues, however, Mr. Breuer did not have a set aesthetic. Mr Schechner, who called him one last time on Sunday morning and told him that his work had affected millions – in an indirect, culture-promoting way, as avant-garde theater can – said in an interview that the reach and curiosity of Mr Breuer did he stand out.