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In Memoriam for December 2012

Members of the theatre community who have passed in recent months.

Marvin Hamlisch, the composer who sprang into the public eye with A Chorus Line in 1975, died in August at the age of 68. A child prodigy (he was admitted to the Juilliard School as a six-year-old), Hamlisch went on to earn a vast collection of awards for A Chorus Line as well as the score for The Way We Were (he joins fellow composer Richard Rodgers as the only two artists to capture a complete set of Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Pulitzer statues). Hamlisch followed A Chorus Line with the score for They’re Playing Our Song (1979), based on his partnership with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager; The Goodbye Girl (1993); and Sweet Smell of Success and Imaginary Friends (both in 2002). His most recent work was the Broadway-bound The Nutty Professor.

Hairspray and Cry- Baby book-writer Mark O’Donnell died in August at the age of 58. A humorist at heart, O’Donnell’s writing and cartoons appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Esquire. In addition to his Broadway contributions (he shared a Tony with Thomas Meehan for Hairspray in 2003), O’Donnell penned a number of original plays, as well as collaborating on an adaptation of Molière’s Scapin with Bill Irwin and Georges Feydeau’s Private Fittings for La Jolla Playhouse in California.

Judith Martin, the founding artistic director of the Paper Bag Players in New York City, died at the age of 93 in July. Under her leadership, the Paper Bag Players created and performed original musicals and plays for children using common household materials such as cardboard and construction paper to build props and set pieces. Martin wrote, designed, directed, choreographed and performed in more than 35 shows during her 51 years as artistic director.

Jaylee Mead, former NASA astronomer and arts philanthropist of Washington, D.C., died in September at age 83. Joined by her husband, Gilbert, the Meads emerged as the foremost theatre patrons in Washington. Their most heralded contribution—and the largest single private gift ever given to an American theatre—was $35 million toward the renovation of Arena Stage in 2006 (the theatre now bears the moniker Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater).

Czechoslovakian-born actor, teacher and company director Marketa Kimbrell, 82, died in July. An actor in her home country, Kimbrell was displaced to Germany after World War II, where she met her future husband, U.S. army major George Kimbrell. Of her many film roles, she was perhaps best known for her part in Sidney Lumet’s 1964 The Pawnbroker, but “theatre for all the forgotten” was her personal cause. With actor Richard Levy, she co-founded the New York Street Theater Caravan in 1970, serving as its artistic director until 1998, performing in poor urban neighborhoods, migrant camps, coal towns, farm communities, prisons and other places often outside theatre’s reach. She also taught film directing and acting at New York University from 1979 to 2006.

Tony-winning Broadway director Albert Marre, 87, died in September. Marre won early success as the director of Kismet in 1953, going on to work on Broadway for more than 50 years. He remains most lauded for his direction for Man of La Mancha, for which he won his Tony in 1966, and continued to stay close to the show, directing three of its four Broadway revivals over the years. Prior to his 1950 Broadway debut (as an actor and associate director for the comedy The Relapse), Marre abandoned his Harvard University law degree to co-found the Brattle Theatre Company in Cambridge, Mass., one of the country’s first classical repertory theatres.

Epistolary playwright Jerome Kilty died in September at the age of 90. While attending Harvard University in the 1940s, the actor led the charge to found the Brattle Theatre Company (with Albert Marre and others). Kilty went on to land Broadway and repertory roles, racking up a significant number in the plays of Shaw, on whom he fashioned himself an aficionado. In 1960 Kilty’s Dear Liar, based on the famous correspondence between Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, debuted on Broadway with Kilty himself playing the playwright. He went on to pen two other plays of letters, including Dear Love, based on Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Dear Life, featuring Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper.

Jack Richardson, once considered among the American theatre’s best prospective writers, died in July at age 78. Richardson earned Obie and Drama Desk awards for his first play, a reimagining of Orestes titled The Prodigal, in 1960. He followed up with the well-received Gallows Humor, but his two plays produced on Broadway, Lorenzo in 1963 and Xmas in Las Vegas in 1965, were flops, each lasting only four performances. Richardson eventually abandoned playwriting, turning to books, magazines and dramatic criticism as outlets.

Filmmaker, photographer and playwright Arch Brown died in September at the age of 76. His first play, News Boy, was produced Off Broadway in 1979; his comedy FREEZE! received the Eric Bentley Playwriting Prize in 1998. Brown is most known for his commitment to LGBT-themed plays and playwrights, including the establishment of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation in 1993, which supports LGBT theatre groups and playwrights.

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