American director, actor, theorist, and playwright. Actor with the Living Theater, working in Brecht and Ionesco plays. Won his first Obie for his role as Galy Gay in Man is Man. In 1963, he founded the Open Theatre, the country's premiere avant garde experimental ensemble theatre, where he directed Jean-Claude van Itallie's Interview and The Serpent and Meg Terry's Viet Rock. His productions of Samuel Beckett plays were reknowned.
In May 1984, his heart failed. During the surgery that followed, he suffered a stroke that left him severely aphasic.
It was ten years before Chaikin sufficiently recovered the use of his speech to begin directing again, notably on When the World was Green, written in collaboration with Sam Shepard. Many critics found the aphasic Chaikin's late 1990s performances in Beckett's Texts for Nothing both poignant and illuminating, as his current struggle to speak meshed with a pre-recorded recitation of his own voice from a 1981 production.
He has been awarded six Obies, including the first ever Obie for lifetime achievement in the theatre.