John Malpede is a director, actor, activist, and writer. In 1985, Malpede founded and continues to direct the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the first performance group in the nation comprised primarily of homeless and formerly homeless people. LAPD’s mission is to create performances that connect lived experience to the social forces that shape the lives and communities of people living in poverty. “A nationally acclaimed theater radical and social visionary, Malpede has been confounding audience expectations for two decades,” said Linda Eisenstein in the Cleveland Plain Dealer this year. Directed by Malpede, LAPD is current touring Agents & Assets, a performance that addresses the consequences of the U.S. government’s escalating war on drugs and the misuse of U.S. intelligence agencies by the executive branch of the government. Agents & Assets has been produced in Los Angeles, Detroit, and at the Cleveland Public Theater.
A frequent collaborator with dancers, poets, artists, architects, and other directors, he has recently been featured in The Passion series by artist Bill Viola and as Antonin Artaud in director Peter Sellars’ productions of For An End to the Judgment of God. Originally produced for the Vienna Festival in June 2002, the piece has toured six European cities and was produced in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and at the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater (REDCAT) in 2004.“Malpede creates a magnetic image of rational insanity that demands—and rewards—rapt, close attention,” says critic Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Also in 2004, as part of a citywide retrospective exhibition of Creative Time’s renowned public sculptures, Malpede’s 1984 collaboration with visual artist Erika Rothenberg and architect Laurie Hawkinson—The Freedom of Expression National Monument—was re-installed in Foley Square, downtown New York.
Beginning in 2001, Malpede began researching and constructing RFK in EKY, a recreation of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 swing through Eastern Kentucky. Directed by Malpede and performed in September 2004 in five counties of eastern Kentucky, RFK in EKY recreated Kennedy’s original “war on poverty” tour over the course of a four-day event that included in-depth discussion of historic and current events, public and performance art, and social policy. RFK in EKY was produced by Appalshop and developed with a host of community partners. This monumental, real-time documentary-style performance project drew national and international attention to the strengths and needs of present-day Appalachia and its people, while revealing startling historical parallels to present-day political realities.
Malpede has taught at UCLA Dept. Dance / World Arts and Cultures; NYU Tisch School of the Arts; the Amsterdam School for Advanced Research in Theater and Dance (DasArts); and California College of the Arts. His individual artist fellowships include grants from New York State Council on the Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; and California Arts Council. He has received Dance Theater Workshop’s Bessie Creation Award; San Francisco Art Institute’s Adeline Kent Award; and a Theater LA Ovation Award, as well as numerous government and foundation project grants. He has performed throughout the United States in solo performances including Inappropriate Laughing Responses, Generic Performance, Pre-existing Conditions, and GET.
PMMNLS visiting artists are interviewed each Monday on Art Talk AM on the Radio: 12-1 PM. Find it at 98.3 FM on the PSU campus, streaming at KPSU.org and available at arttalkam.blogspot.com.
Portland State University’s Art Department offers free public lectures every Monday night of the school year. This is the twenty-seventh and final lecture in the PMMNLS for this season. The PSU MFA Monday Night Lecture Series is supported in part by PICA, Reed College, PNCA, Lewis and Clark College, PSU’s Department of International Studies, and Ben Rosenberg Studio. If you or your organization are interested in becoming a supporter of the lecture series please let us know.
Next up in the PMMNLS: Summer Break! PMMNLS will be back in the Fall with a new line up! View the complete list of the 2007-2008 series lectures.