FEED35: Marlene Swartz in Conversation

Continuing our look at the history of Soho Rep in honor of our 35th year, Literary and Humanities Manager Raphael Martin interviews one of the founding co-Artistic Directors, Marlene Swartz about the days that she and Jerry Engelback dreamed up the theater and how they spent their first few years running it. Marlene also speaks about those who succeeded her: Julian Webber and Daniel Aukin. It’s an amazing slice of life look at the early days of the off-Broadway movement. We hope you enjoy it.


Marlene Swartz – founding co-artistic director of Soho Rep – started Soho Rep with Jerry Engelbach in 1975.  She directed her own adaptions of Ibsen’s The Master Builder and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya as well as a new musical version of Aristophanes’ The Congresswomen. Her direction of the world premiere of Stephen Davis Park’s The Idol Makers, won her a directing award. Marlene was also known for her interpretations of Pinter, both in The Birthday Party and The Caretaker.

Marlene and Jerry went through three spaces between 1975 and 1986: their original one in SoHo on Mercer Street, one season at the Auditorium at Bellevue Psychiatric Building, and four years at Greenwich House in the West Village. Jerry left Soho Rep in 1986 and Julian Webber, Soho Rep’s leading director, joined as co-artistic director in 1990.  Julian oversaw the move to Walker Street where he become the sole artistic director in 1991, as Marlene began minimizing her involvement.

Marlene co directed Blue Man Group in its first incarnation at the Astor Place Theatre in 1991. At the same time she started her story consulting business, The Story Conference.  Her clients’ work has been featured at Slamdance Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Toyota Comedy Festival, U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, Aspen, American Shorts Festival et. al.

In 1997 Marlene returned to get her masters degree and set up private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in issues dealing with the arts. She treats private patients, has worked on artistic and collaborative issues with bands and theatre troupes, and consulted on a reality show.

Marlene currently spends part of her year in the mountains of Mexico, where Jerry and his wife, also live.

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