New York, New York: The Living Theater; Blue Note, 1959-1962. Handbill from premier, two
flyers from initial run, The Music from “The Connection” LP, five press releases from the
Living Theatre regarding The Connection, two postcards sent by Jackie McLean to Judith
Malina, two silkscreen posters advertising the play, and program for 1961 Netherlands
performance. All materials in very good or near-fine condition.
Directed by Judith Malina, designed by Julian Beck, written by Jack Gelber, and scored by
jazz pianist and composer Freddie Redd, The Connection follows a theater producer’s efforts
to stage a play with heroin addicts, who also happen to be jazz musicians. The characters talk
and play jazz while waiting for their dealer to arrive. The Connection became The Living
Theater’s first big success, establishing it as a major player in American theater; Blue Note
released the original score of the play in 1960, the play toured Europe in 1961, and Shirley
Clarke’s film adaptation premiered in 1962. In the first years of the 1960s, The Connection was
performed 722 times.
The play is notable for its realist depiction of how heroin addiction cut across racial and class
lines in New York and for featuring several Black avant-garde jazz musicians of the time.
Freddie Redd composed the music and performed it in the first run of the play with his
quartet, while--as one of the press releases included in this collection announces--Cecil Taylor
and his quartet, including Archie Shepp, filled in for a three-week run while Redd’s quartet
was occupied with the film adaption. The play’s influence extended beyond the cultural sphere:
upon seeing a Narcotics Anonymous benefit performance of The Connection (during which
one socialite dramatically presented a $500 check at the conclusion of the first act) the New
York City Commissioner of Correction, Anna Kross, announced her opinion that all city
workers who interact with people suffering from addiction should see the play.