La MaMa Moves Again Under the Cover of Darkness

La MaMa Moves Again Under the Cover of Darkness

After Café La MaMa’s move to 82 Second Avenue, Ellen Stewart was still under the watchful eye of the city. She had already been sent to the Women’s House of Detention in Greenwich Village a few times and risked becoming a felon—all for the crime of running a DIY theater—and the city was planning another raid. Someone tipped off Stewart, and she was able to quietly secure a new place down the street and move the entire contents of her theater literally moments after the end of a show. “It was the closing performance of Balls, Paul Foster’s play,” Ellen recalled. “There must have been thirty-five people who came to see the play. Many of them had never been there before. I told them just to strike the café.” Some audience members had no idea what she meant, but they followed the lead of others and began picking up chairs, tables, and set pieces. Everyone went down the steps at 82 Second Avenue, walked up the street past the dry cleaner, and arrived at a second-floor loft at 122 Second Avenue, where they set up the new theater. “We took everything—paintings, tables, chairs, coffeepots—everything,” Stewart said. “Well, they moved me in one hour.” One lady in high heels who was carrying an armful turned to another woman and innocently asked, “Do they do this often?”

From Chapter 16 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Women's House of Detention
6th Ave & Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10011