Rachel Rosenthal, experimental performance artist, dies at 88
In this April 16, 1997, file photo, performance artist Rachel Rosenthal cuddles rats during a book signing in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP / Susan Goldman, File)
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, May 13, 2015 1:52PM EDT
LOS ANGELES -- Rachel Rosenthal, the performance and theatre artist who embraced environmentalism during a half-century career devoted to the avant-garde, has died in Southern California. She was 88.
Rosenthal died Sunday at her home in west Los Angeles, said Kate Noonan, managing director of the Rachel Rosenthal Company, the non-profittheatre group the artist founded in 1989. The cause was congestive heart failure, Noonan told the Los Angeles Times.
Rosenthal's experimental productions often combined elements of drama, dance and music. Nearly all her works touched on the human connection to nature.
"The overriding theme in all my pieces is always the same," she told the Times in a 1995 interview. "It's about our relationship to the Earth. It deals with who we are as a species and how we belong on this planet."
For years, she performed with a shaved head -- a kind of artistic trademark that she started in 1981. (In later years, she let her hair grow out somewhat.)
Born in Paris to Russian parents, Rosenthal fled with her family to escape World War II, moving to Brazil and eventually settling in New York.
Rosenthal studied art in the U.S. and France before moving to Southern California in 1955. She became active in the L.A. cultural scene, creating the Instant Theatre, an experimental company, and joining the feminist art movement that took off in the 1970s.
One of her most lasting creations was the TOHUBOHU! Extreme Theatre Ensemble, a group that has carried on her legacy of avant-garde performance.
Rosenthal began teaching performance in 1979 and went on to lecture at universities around the country.
For now, the Rachel Rosenthal Company will go on without its founder, the Times said.
Rosenthal is survived by her nephew, Eric Landau. A public memorial is being planned, but details haven't been announced.