For more than 55 years, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club has been at the head of New York City’s Off Broadway movement, providing underrepresented, underfunded, and often misunderstood artists an uncensored space to explore their ideas and communicate them through theatrical language. Stanley Tomchin, known formerly as the world’s most successful professional games player, is the latest to declare support for the illustrious theatre complex, recognizing the crucial role it plays in the development of young playwrights and actors. As a nonprofit cultural institution, La MaMa relies full heartedly on the generosity of its donors to retain their position as the seedbed of new work by artists of all nations and cultures.
Founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart, La MaMa originated as a tiny basement theatre where her brother and his friends would create and perform their works. Ellen decided to dedicate the club to all aspects of the theatre, and began welcoming neglected playwrights, many of whom, including Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson and Tom Eyen, became quintessential to the modern portrayal of the performing arts; Others, including Bette Midler, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert DeNiro, could be seen on the stage before they became household names. Today, the organization fosters learning for the emerging artists in an East Village campus that has grown to include four theatres, an art gallery, a six-story rehearsal studio building, a visiting artist dormitory, and an extensive archive documenting the history of La MaMa and Off Broadway.
While overwhelming support has allowed for the organization to flourish in recent years, this was not always the case. In 1992, Stewart was nearly forced to close doors when she failed to raise $150,000 needed to finish the season. After a NY Times article reported the adversity facing the institution, which was at that time over $170,000 in debt, Stanley Tomchin and others recognized the cultural importance of La MaMa and were quick to commit their aid.
“The support that Stanley gives is so, so important to us – it goes directly to helping these young artists that are burning with inspiration and creativity,” said Mary Fulham, Managing Director.
Tomchin’s contributions have allowed for the continuance and implementation of the free services La MaMa provides to all artists, including rehearsal space, marketing, and front of house and box office services, so that they are able to wholly concentrate on their work.
Stanley Tomchin is a retired professional games player who has dedicated his life to philanthropic efforts. Being actively involved in a great many charitable organizations for decades, he has also been collaborating with his sister, Joy, to support causes they believe in for many years. Beneficiaries of Tomchin’s generosity include the GMHC, the IDEAL School in New York City, the Three Square Food Bank, the Community Action Fund for Women in Africa, and international organizations fostering environmental protection, namely Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.