(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/3/22.)
A veteran actor, he was also a founder of Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative, Manhattan groups known for experimental productions.
George Bartenieff, an actor and producer who was a significant figure in the Off Off Broadway and experimental theater world as a founder of two theater groups, died on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 89.
His wife, the playwright Karen Malpede, said the cause was the cumulative effects of several advanced illnesses.
Mr. Bartenieff had credentials that might have led to a mainstream acting career. He was on Broadway before he was 15 and in the 1960s appeared there in plays by Edward Albee and John Guare. His smattering of film and television credits suggest that he could have made a character-actor’s career just out of playing a judge or a doctor on series like “Law & Order.”
But he much preferred to be involved in the kinds of socially conscious, form-bending plays staged in downtown Manhattan and, sometimes, out on the street.
When Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theater, the avant-garde repertory company they founded in the 1940s, presented Kenneth H. Brown’s scalding play about a Marine prison, “The Brig,” in 1963, Mr. Bartenieff was in the cast. He appeared in productions of the Judson Poets’ Theater, an experimental group in the same period. Later in the 1960s he worked with the director Andre Gregory at the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. After he returned to New York, he and his wife at the time, Crystal Field, founded Theater for the New City in 1971.
That group has been presenting adventurous theatrical works, many on social and political themes, ever since. After a divorce from Ms. Field, Mr. Bartenieff married Ms. Malpede in 1995, the year they and Lee Nagrin founded Theater Three Collective. It, too, has presented numerous plays since, many of them avant-garde, socially conscious works by Ms. Malpede, with Mr. Bartenieff in the casts.