Particular Passions

Particular Passions: Talks with Women who Shaped our Times

Ellen Stewart — On Harold Pinter

Ellen StewartLynn GilbertComment

"I was wiping off our coffee bar that we had made out of old shoeshine stands and he comes down and says, “I say there. Who is and where is this Mama woman?” And I said, “Who wants to know?” He says, ‘‘I’m Harold Pinter and I want you to give her a message that if she dares to put on my play in this little hole tomorrow, that she is no longer going to exist,” or something like that, because he had been told by his friends that our little theater was illegal and if he reported it, we would be closed immediately. How dare I put on his play in this little hole! He was Harold Pinter. He raged and raged until finally I said, “Well, Mr. Pinter, I’m the Mama woman. I love your plays and I had planned to do all of them.” He stood there with his mouth open. Then this lady—not the one with the tweeds, she never said a word but the one with the mink shrug—pushed him aside and said, “I am Mr. Pinter’s agent. I hereby tell you, if you do this piece...” And then he tried to interrupt, and she told him to shut up. Then he stepped in front of her and told her, “No one tells me to shut up!” And he said, “Mama woman, you do this play as long as you want to, and until it gets a commercial production, it’s your play, from this time on. You do it as much as you want.” She screamed at him, “You can’t do that!” and he said, “I most certainly can and furthermore I’m going to come to see it. When does it open?” He didn’t come to see it because he got a cable to return to England immediately and he really did leave. It wasn’t an excuse or something.

Years later, in 1967, when we were playing in England at the West End, we didn’t fare so well but we did get a West End production of Paul Foster’s Tom Paine, and there were interviews and all that. Pinter was at a party where they were talking about these American off-off-Broadway people who had come to London and how we caused quite a stir with our ways. “Well,” he says, “that’s quite all right. I’m a La Mama playwright also.” So he told it, I didn’t, and the papers talked about it."  

Ellen Stewart, from 'Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Shaped Our Times.'

PARTICULAR  PASSIONS recounts the rich oral histories of pioneering women of the twentieth century from the arts and sciences, athletics and law, mathematics and politics.

We share their journeys as they pursue successful paths with intelligence and determination, changing the world for the millions of women and men who were inspired by them. 

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