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From Theater To Jail

From Theater To Jail

Your Jan. 21 feature on Judith Malina’s “Korach,” performed by the Living Theatre, brought back memories of the group’s performance of “Paradise Lost” at the Philadelphia YM-YWHA on Nov. 26, 1968. At that time, I was the executive director of the Y.

The Arts Council, a program department of the Y, brought the group to perform, and the auditorium was filled with 1,500 people. The production, in which 30 members of the cast interact with the audience, began at 8:30 p.m. It ended at 1 a.m. when several cast members and people from the audience danced out onto Broad Street, four blocks from City Hall, wearing loincloths in the chill of November, shouting “I am free.”

Two policeman just happened to be at a gas station with their patrol cars across from the Y and promptly called on their radio: “nude men running around the street.” Ten more police cars arrived on the scene in little time.

The men ran back into the foyer of the Y, followed by the police. Three cast members and one patron were arrested and charged with public indecency and disorderly conduct. Shouts of “police brutality” followed them to the police wagon.

I remember calling my wife at 2:30 a.m. from the police station and telling her what happened and that an attorney from the Y and I were organizing bail.

Several days later, before a magistrate, they were acquitted but each was fined $5, and $2.50 for disorderly conduct. A public relations nightmare for the Y ensued.

Boca Raton, Fla.

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