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Maria Ley Piscator
Maria Ley Piscator
photo: Maria Piscator holding a picture of her late husband Erwin Piscator
Maria Ley Piscator 1983
photo: Maria Piscator in front of her townhouse on New York’s Upper East Side on April 29, 1983 (photo: Carin Drechsler-Marx)
Maria Ley Piscator was born on August 1, 1898 in Vienna. She began her theatrical career as a dancer in Berlin and Paris and later turned to choreography. She helped stage several productions with Max Reinhardt, including his renowned production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and finished with a doctorate in literature. In Salzburg she met Erwin Piscator, her third husband, and married him on April 15, 1937 in Paris. The two immigrated to the United States on January 1, 1939 and founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. Their students included Stella Adler, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Anthony Franciosa, Ben Gazzara, Tony Randall, and Elaine Stritch, among others.
Maria Piscator also directed more than 50 theatrical productions on and off Broadway and in Europe. She wrote two novels and a book of poetry, and translated many works, including Lendemain, presented at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, the same theater where her Metamorphosis was seen in 1971. Other books include The Piscator Experiment: The Political Theater, which was published by James H. Heinemann in 1967, a year after her husband’s death, and her autobiography, Mirror People, published in 1989.
Maria Ley Piscator’s teaching included work in the 1970’s at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In the mid 1980’s she began working with the Elysium Theater Company and in 1987 became the Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – Between Two Continents.
She died at the age of 101 on October 14, 1999 in Manhattan.
Other sources:
photo: Maria Ley Piscator on the stoop of the Piscator House in New York City

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