Maria Ley Piscator was born Friederike Czada in Vienna, Austria. She became a dancer and performed in Berlin and Paris. While studying for a doctoral degree in literature at the Sorbonne in 1936, she met Erwin Piscator, a theater director-producer, who became her third husband. He was part of the "epic theatre" movement associated with Bertolt Brecht. The couple emigrated to the USA, settling in New York City, and founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. They directed many Off-Broadway productions. She taught at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She also wrote The Piscator Experiment: The Political Theater (1967) and her autobiography, Mirror People (1989).