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In Memoriam (October 2013)

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

Director Alma Becker died in June at age 67. Becker was a resident director at California’s Eureka Theater, New York’s New Dramatists and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Additionally, Becker was on Home Made Theater’s artistic advisory board, directing 11 shows there. She taught acting and directing courses at Skidmore College, and was in charge of the school’s directing program.

Jaqueline Brookes died in April at age 82. She acted onscreen but was best known for stage performances in Shakespeare, Molière and Pirandello, among others. She won an Obie in 1963 for her role in Six Characters in Search of an Author, and a Theater World Award in 1955 for Provincetown Playhouse’s The Cretan Woman. Brookes was a longtime teacher, mainly at Circle in the Square Theatre School.

Sybil Christopher, co-founder of Sag Harbor, N.Y.’s Bay Street Theatre, died in March at age 83. The Welsh former actor founded BST in 1991 with Stephen Hamilton and Emma Walton, and served as the organization’s artistic director for 22 years.


Actor Clayton Corzatte died in April at age 86. Born in Alabama, Corzatte performed nationwide, often with wife Susan Corzatte. He was a Tony nominee and Obie winner for his work with Association of Producing Artists in New York City. In 1969 he relocated to Seattle, joining Seattle Repertory Theatre, and appeared onstage as recently as 2011, in 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls.

Educator and director John Doyle died in February at age 65. After becoming the first African-American instructor in San Francisco State University’s drama department, Doyle went on to champion the work of black actors and playwrights as a member of the Black Arts Movement. He founded the Grassroots Experience Theatre Company and collaborated with such artists as Danny Glover, Adilah Barnes and Barry Shabaka Henley.

Actor James Gandolfini died in June at age 51. Best known for TV’s “The Sopranos,” Gandolfini started his career on the stage, landing a role in Broadway’s 1992 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Recently he performed on Broadway in 2009’s God of Carnage. Other stage credits include On the Waterfront and Tarantulas Dancing, both at NYC’s Samuel Beckett Theatre.

Theatre press agent Shirley Herz died in August at age 87. Over a 65-year career in the arts, Herz lent her expertise to almost 100 original Broadway shows, and represented the likes of Josephine Baker and Angela Lansbury. She served on the American Theatre Wing’s advisory committee for more than 25 years. Herz was awarded a special Tony Award for excellence in theatre in 2009, and in 2010 she received the Theatre Hall of Fame Founders Award.

Publicist and former TCG public relations director Linda Jacobs died in May at age 64. Among other accomplishments, Jacobs helped the Children’s Thea­tre Company of Minne­apolis achieve national recognition. During her time as CTC’s PR director, it was awarded a Tony for excellence in regional theatre. After her two-year stint at TCG that started in 2008, she returned to her beloved Twin Cities.

Dramatist and screenwriter Fay Kanin died in late March at age 95. In addition to co-writing films and TV movies with her husband Michael Kanin (she won numerous Emmy Awards), she penned the play Goodbye, My Fancy and the libretto for Grind.

Lee Melville, founding editor of the online LA Stage Times magazine, died in May at age 74. Melville had a long career in the L.A. theatre scene as an editor, as well as an actor, stage manager, producer and critic for Drama-Logue. The city’s Playwrights’ Arena renamed its annual award after him in 2011.

Italian actress and playwright Franca Rame died in May at age 83. She often co-wrote work with her husband, Nobel-winning playwright Dario Fo, and acted in many of his shows. As a public figure, she was a longtime advocate of Marxism and often incorporated politics into her work. She served as a senator in the Italian Parliament from 2006 to 2008.


It’s hard to categorize Patricia M. Troxel, who died in April at age 57. She was a director, dramaturg, translator, teacher and author. She served as literary manager and directed dozens of plays for California’s PCPA Theaterfest, whose staff she joined in 1991, having arrived from Kentucky, where she had worked at Actors Thea­tre of Louisville. She was an emeritus associate professor of English at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

British playwright and director Snoo Wilson died in July at age 64. Wilson was a longtime collaborator with Potomac Theatre Project, from its start as New York Theatre Studio, through its incarnation as PTP Washington and PTP/NYC. A writer of screenplays, novels and musicals, in addition to plays, Wilson often used surrealism to critique injustice. PTP/NYC received Wilson’s last play, Revelations, two weeks before his death, and hopes to produce it in his honor.

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