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Mabou Mines Archive

Call Number



1966-2000, inclusive
; 1970-1995, bulk


Mabou Mines (Theater group)


351 Linear Feet
in 276 record cartons, 23.5 manuscript boxes, 11 small flat boxes, 48 oversize flat boxes, 68 flat file folders, 13 film cans, 1 box binder, 1 rolled storage tube, and 11 oversize objects.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


Beginning in 1970 Mabou Mines helped revolutionize experimental theatre in the United States and contributed to an international movement in avant-garde, postmodern theatre. The Mabou Mines create multi-media performances utilizing both existing texts and building performances utilizing a pastiche style that draws on a variety of sources. The materials in the collection document this creative process and the administrative functions necessary to maintain and promote the company.

Historical Note

Mabou Mines is a collaborative, avant-garde theater company based in New York City. Founded in 1970, the company took its name from an old mining town in northern Nova Scotia, near where founding members JoAnne Akalaitis, Lee Breuer, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, and David Warrilow, developed The Red Horse Animation, the group's first original performance piece. Since then Mabou Mines has produced scores of plays, collaborated with well-known writers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, garnered heaps of critical praise and awards, and performed around the globe, cementing its reputation as an innovative force in the theater world. The company's official website is Lee Breuer and Ruth Maleczech met studying theater at UCLA in the late 1950s. Around 1960, the couple hitchhiked to San Francisco to participate in the city's active theater scene. Working at the San Francisco Actor's Workshop and the San Francisco Mime Troupe they met Bill Raymond, and at the San Francisco Tape Music Center they met JoAnne Akalaitis. In 1964 Akalaitis moved to New York City but left for Paris soon after with composer (and future husband) Philip Glass. The following year Breuer and Maleczech left San Francisco for Europe. The two couples met up while traveling in Greece, went back to Paris, and with actor David Warrilow, began to work on staging Samuel Beckett's Play. It premiered at the American Cultural Center in 1967. It was also in Paris that the group first met actor Frederick Neumann. In 1969, back in New York with Glass, Akalaitis wrote the others in Paris suggesting they form a theater group in New York. "Mabou Mines came together as a group to create formal works that would explore language and acting. They had a strong desire to collectively exercise complete artistic control over the work."1 Influenced especially by Jerzy Grotowski's teaching and Beckett's work, Mabou Mines went on to produce experimental theater pieces like Breuer's Red Horse Animationpieces that resulted from intense collaboration and improvisation, and incorporated elements of visual art, dance, mime, puppetry, and music. Arc Welding Piece (1972), for example, featured an artist using an arc welder to make cuts in a large piece of metal, while actors expressed various states of emotion, their faces enlarged by magnifying lenses. In 1974, Fred Neumann joined the group to work on Breuer's second "Animation," The B. Beaver Animation. Bill Raymond joined shortly thereafter. In its early years, Mabou Mines moved easily between the art world and the theater, often performing in galleries as well as stages. But its work with Beckett's writing firmly situated the group within a theatrical context. "Mabou Mines has produced eight pieces by Samuel Beckett [ Cascando, Come and Go, Company, Imagination Dead Imagine, The Lost Ones, Mercier and Camier, Play, Worstward Ho], six of which have been world premieres of texts not originally written for the theatre. These productions have led to Mabou Mines being considered one of the foremost interpreters of Beckett's work."2 After an early residency at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York, the company began performing at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, and other venues in New York and elsewhere. From the beginning, creative roles were fluid and collaboration was key, but Lee Breuer served as the company's primary director. In 1975 however, Akalaitis directed Cascando and opened the door for other members to take on new roles, for the company to expand, and for multiple projects to come together simultaneously. Akalaitis went on to direct Dressed Like an Egg (1977) and Southern Exposure (1979), and wrote and directed Dead End Kids (1980); Neumann directed Mercier and Camier (1979); Maleczech directed Vanishing Pictures (1980). Other performers worked with Mabou Mines, including L.B. Dallas, Linda Hartinian, Ellen McElduff, Greg Mehrten, Terry O'Reilly, and B-St. John Schofield. The company steadily expanded its repertoire and continued its tradition of collaboration, working with talented performers and artists, including composers Bob Telson, John Zorn, Pauline Oliveros, and David Byrne. Mabou Mines has adapted works by Shakespeare ( Lear, 1990), Franz Xaver Kroetz ( Through the Leaves, 1984; Help Wanted, 1986), Philip K. Dick ( Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, 1985), and Bertolt Brecht ( In the Jungle of Cities, 1991). The company has toured extensively in the United States and abroad. Mabou Mines has remained committed to its ideal of complete artistic control. "All decisions, artistic and administrative, large and small, are made by the company members, and each member functions variously as producer, designer, actor, writer, or director for the other. Additionally all participate as members of the Board of Directors."3 As the company stated in a 1990 press kit, "The artistic purpose of Mabou Mines has been and remains the creation of new theatre pieces from original texts and the theatrical use of existing texts staged from a specific point of view. Each member is encouraged to pursue his or her artistic vision by initiating and collaborating on a wide range of projects of varying styles, developing them from initial concept to final performance. This process is intense and often lengthy. While the director of a Mabou Mines work is responsible for its concept and its basic structure, the ultimate production reflects the concerns and the artistic input of all its collaborators."4 References: 1. Unknown author, unpublished manuscript. A history of Mabou Mines through 1989. 2. Mabou Mines, company history included in press kit, 1990. 3. Mabou Mines website, 4. Mabou Mines, company history included in press kit, 1990. Chronology of Productions: 1970: The Red Horse Animation 1971: Come and Go; Play 1972: Arc Welding; Music for Voices 1973: Send/Receive/Send 1974: Mabou Mines Performs Samuel Beckett 1975: Cascando;The B. Beaver Animation 1976: The Saint and the Football Player 1977: Dressed Like An Egg 1978: Shaggy Dog Animation 1979: Mercier and Camier; Southern Exposure 1980: A Prelude to a Death in Venice; Dead End Kids; Easy Daisy(for radio); Sister Suzie Cinema; Vanishing Pictures 1981: Wrong Guys 1982: The Keeper Radio Series 1983: Cold Harbor; Company; Hajj; The Joey Schmerda Story(for radio); The Josy Schmerda 1984: Imagination Dead Imagine; Pretty Boy; Through the Leaves 1985: Flow My Tears the Policeman Said; It's A Man's World; Starcock; The Interview Series (for radio) 1986: CEO; Dead End Kids(Film Version); Help Wanted; The Kafka Parables(for radio); Worstward Ho 1987: Sueños 1988: The Gospel at Colonus 1990: B. Beaver Animation(reconstruction); Mabou Mines Lear; The Miller Series(for radio) 1991: In the Jungle of Cities; The Quantum 1992: The MahabharANTa, and Selected Stories from the Insectiad 1993: The Bribe 1994: Mother; Reel To Real 1995: An Epidog 1996: Peter and Wendy; Pootanah Moksha; Red Horse Animation(reconstruction) 1997: Happy Days 1999: Belén-A Book of Hours 2000: Animal Magnetism 2001: Ecco Porco 2003: Cara Lucia; Mabou Mines DollHouse 2005: Red Beads; Summa Dramatica 2007: Song For New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting


For the most part, materials are arranged alphabetically. Production related materials are arranged alphabetically by production title with subseries for materials documenting different performance venues arranged chronogically. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Photographs and slides are arranged alphabetically by the name of the subject or production title that the materials document. Scripts and production books are arranged alphabetically by production title. Videorecordings are also arranged alphabetically by production title.

Series XII: Financial Files, Grants and Development and Series XIII: Administrative Files were processed at the box level.

All efforts were made to preserve the original arrangement of the collection.

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Programs
  3. Series III: Production Files
  4. Series IV: Photographs
  5. Series V: Slides
  6. Series VI: Scripts
  7. Series VII: Production Books
  8. Series VIII: Touring Files
  9. Series IX: Video Recordings
  10. Series X: Press
  11. Series XI: Objects
  12. Series XII Financial Files, Grants and Development
  13. Series XIII: Administrative Files
  14. Series XIV: Audio
  15. Series XVI. Posters
  16. Oversize - Series III: Production Files
  17. Oversize - Series IV: Photographs
  18. Oversize Series VIII: Touring Files
  19. Oversize - Series X: Press
  20. Oversize - Series XII: Financial Files, Grants and Development

Scope and Contents

The Mabou Mines Archive contains an extremely diverse array of materials that comprehensively document the first 25 years of Mabou Mines, the New York City-based avant-garde theater company. The collection includes materials that document the innovative methods used by Mabou Mines to create unique theatrical adaptations from existing, often classical texts. Collaboration is a key element of Mabou Mines's artistic vision. All decisions, artistic and administrative, large and small, are made by the company members, and each member functions variously as producer, designer, actor, writer, or director. Additionally, all participate as members of the Board of Directors. Materials in the archive reflect this intensely collaborative environment.

The collection contains a wealth of production materials that document all aspects of theatrical production. It includes invaluable administrative records that reflect how the organization sustained, promoted, and financially supported its mission. Also included are scripts, programs, photographic documentation, production books and touring files, and extensive video documentation of most productions. As one of the leading interpreters of the literary works of Samuel Beckett, the collection contains correspondence between Beckett and Ruth Maleczech and Lee Breuer.

Known for their innovative incorporation of technology in theatrical productions, the Mabou Mines Archive contains extensive film, video, and audio production elements and supporting documentation.

The collection will be of interest to researchers working in the areas of avant-garde performance, performance art, experimental theatre, New York theater history and artistic collaborations, as well as to researchers examining the contemporary intersection between experimental theater, mime, music, poetry and the visual arts.

Numerous oversize items found at the end of each of the series include design plots, posters, oversize printed matter and other promotional materials housed in boxes and map cases.


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections,, 212-998-2596.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections,, 212-998-2596.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Mabou Mines Archive; MSS 133; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Fales Library purchased the Mabou Mines Archive from the Mabou Mines Development Foundation in 2003. In 2019 a trunk of posters was located in the repository, accessioned separately, and integrated into the collection as Series XV.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to some audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.


In 2019 it was determined that 45 VHS that were part of accession 2003-133 and used as access copies were in fact duplicates copies of original collection material. In 2023 these duplicates were returned to Mabou Mines.

Separated Material

One copy of the comic book adaptation of Red Horse Animation was removed and catalogued individually in the Fales Library's Downtown Print and Periodicals Collection. This item has been cataloged in Bobcat, NYU's online catalog.

Collection processed by

Sharon Lehner, 2003; and William J. Levay, 2006-2007. Media updated by Luke Martin and Brent Phillips, 2008; YZ Chin, 2009. Further processing and description by Luke Martin, 2009.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 14:13:03 -0500.
Language: Description is in English

Processing Information

In August 2017, four items were prepared to be moved to offsite art storage in September 2017. In 2019, 108 posters were located in a trunk and surveyed for preservation needs. Rolled posters were humidified and dried under weight, tears were mended, adhesive residue was reduced, and tape was trimmed. These posters were integrated into the collection as a new series (Series XV) in accordance with the collection's existing arrangement structure. In 2023 45 duplicate VHS were deaccessioned and returned to the donor.

Revisions to this Guide

March 2017: Updated by Jacqueline Rider to reflect incorporation of video preservation master and sub-master files
August 2017: Updated by Megan O'Shea to prepare artwork being sent to offsite art storage in September 2017
May 2018: Updated by Kelly Haydon to meet minimum requirements for off-site storage.
February 2019: Updated by Rachel Searcy to reflect 2019 accretion of posters
August 2019: Updated by Kelly Haydon to note available access copies of films
July 2022: Updated by Weatherly Stephan to enhance description of Rose and John puppets in Series XI
February 2023: Updated by Rachel Mahre to state some video materials have been digitized and are accessible to patrons
February 2023: Updated by Anna Björnsson to record deaccessions
April 2023: Updated by Rachel Mahre to state some video materials have been digitized and are accessible to patrons
June 2023: Updated by Olivija Liepa to state some audio materials have been digitized and are accessible to patrons
June 2023: Updated by Peiyuan Sun to enhance description of MahabharANTa shadow puppets


Fales Library and Special Collections
Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012