Theatre Genesis, also located in the East Village on Tenth Street and Second Avenue, was another hotbed of Off-Off-Broadway activity. Along with Café La MaMa, Judson Church, and Caffe Cino, it was one of the key venues of the downtown’s underground theater movement. And like Judson, it was housed in a church—St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, which in 1963 hired a radical young rector named Michael Allen, who was committed to supporting the artistic scenes flowering around him. Theatre Genesis was the brainchild of Ralph Cook, who was a head waiter at the Village Gate, a popular venue where jazz artists like Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Cannonball Adderley played. “Ralph approached Michael Allen, the rector at the church,” recalled Genesis playwright Anthony Barsha, “and that’s how they got set up there, in ’64. Michael Allen was a very open guy, and he was the opposite of Ralph. He was a sort of jolly fellow who could’ve played Santa Claus.” Cook brought along his Village Gate coworker Sam Shepard, whose first two one-acts—The Rock Garden and Cowboys—opened at Theatre Genesis on October 10, 1964.
From Chapter 14 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore