Alan Schneider died in a traffic accident on May 3, 1984, in London, where he was preparing for a production at the Hampstead Theatre of The War at Home, a new American play by James Duff. The letters which follow are among the many received by American Theatre from his friends and colleagues. Tributes to his life and work, delivered at a May 22 memorial service, appear on pp. 26-27.
I am stunned by the arbitrariness of Alan Schneider’s death and find it extremely difficult to come to terms with the loss of a friend of 20 years standing. It is too sudden, too shocking.
I cannot see any way to encapsulate in a few words a man of such passionate spirit and character, of such warmth and vitality. I was the last author he worked with. He was at his peak.
For the American theatre, Alan Schneider’s death is a tragic blow.
For The Acting Company, it is the personal and irreparable loss of our director, advisor and a most loyal and devoted friend. We celebrate his memory through the young people whose lives he touched with his intelligence, his character and his passionate commitment.
New York City
I once told Alan that I wished I’d kept a book of Alan Schneider’s bon mots. He grinned broadly, thumped me on the shoulder, his eyes glinting behind his spectacles, and said, “Why didncha?”
I’m in London now working on the play he was to have directed here. Every time I think of going ahead on this play without Alan, I suffer. But we begin tomorrow.
At our first meeting at the University of California at San Diego, Alan handed us, his graduate directing students, a “family tree,” with Stanislavski at its apex, moving own through several branches till one branch ended with Alan, and directly below, those of us sitting in the room. Since his death, I have come to see a new significance to that family tree. For me, Alan was truly a mentor. His spirit will always be in my heart and, I hope, in my work. While many of his colleagues will remember all that Alan tirelessly and passionately gave to the American theatre, I will always remember the reassuring warmth of his hand on my back.
Alan Schneider’s untimely death has given crushing, concrete meaning to John Donne’s poetic line, “Every man’s death diminishes me.” A great man has been taken from us.
Alan’s work reflected himself: dynamic, vital, perceptive; compassionate but demanding, gentle but strong—in short, genuinely human. He was at home and at ease all over the world. So many of us owe him so much for he gave unstintingly of himself where he sensed commitment. Dedicated artist/philosophers like Alan are rare and precious, and we are all diminished by his passing.
Missouri Repertory Theatre
The loss of Alan Schneider is a great blow to all of us. He was not just a man of the theatre, he was the theatre. Always enthusiastic, always encouraging, always eager to take on new challenges. He continually belied his age, and just now, in his mid-60s, he seemed hell-bent on forging yet another several decades-worth of career.
My most vivid memory of Alan will always be the experience of standing through all of Nicholas Nickleby with him. Lit up, excited like a schoolboy, and yelling over the din of the production that the American theatre needs repertory! Look at that! I don’t believe it! What’s the matter with us?!
He was a great source of inspiration for me, as he was for countless others, always instructing me to go on when I said I couldn’t.
Without him, how can we go on? We will. We must. Alan is still there, leading us, encouraging us, egging us on. The greatest tribute we could offer up would be to build the American theatre that Alan envisioned and carry on in his unerring spirit.
City Stage Company, New York
With a singular sort of wizardry Alan managed to be a guiding light for all of us at once. A national leader for resident professional theatres, he was at the same time our good friend and personal advisor. His devotion, his knowledge, his understanding, his undaunted vision are vital parts of our continuity. We miss him deeply, but his high challenge will live on in our professional lives, and his loving vibrance will live on in our hearts.
Alley Theatre, Houston
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