Director, Stage Manager, Performer
( b. Aug 23, 1925 Terre Haute, Indiana, USA - d. Jun 10, 2014 High Bridge, New Jersey, USA ) Male
Stuart Vaughan directed the first productions of the New York Shakespeare Festival and later seeded several regions of the country with classic works, starting repertory theaters in Seattle and New Orleans and another that toured community centers and colleges.
As a director, Mr. Vaughan earned a reputation as a specialist in Shakespeare who professed a loyalty to the text and an aversion to what he called "revisionist approaches aimed at achieving 'relevance.'" In the early 1960s, he directed a well-received Hamlet and Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 on Broadway.
But he was largely unknown when the producer Joseph Papp asked him to direct Julius Caesar and The Taming of the Shrew in 1956 at an amphitheater on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the first two productions of what became a New York summer tradition -- free Shakespeare outdoors.
Among other things, Mr. Vaughan persuaded Mr. Papp to go back on a promise he had made to his wife, Peggy Bennion, that she would play the lead role, Katherine, in Shrew. Instead, Mr. Vaughan cast a promising young actress, Colleen Dewhurst. That decision, according to Helen Epstein, in "Joe Papp: An American Life," had several important consequences, among them beginning Dewhurst's career and putting the Shakespeare festival on the map.
The next year, Mr. Papp moved his Shakespeare productions to the banks of Belvedere Lake, now known as Turtle Pond, in Central Park, and Mr. Vaughan directed Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, all received with critical praise. (The festival's permanent home, the Delacorte Theater, opened in 1962.)
Beginning in the late 1950s, Mr. Vaughan was the artistic director of the Phoenix Theater, an Off Broadway company whose occasional Broadway productions included Mr. Vaughan's Hamlet. But after he returned from a tour of European theaters on a Ford Foundation grant, his career became more peripatetic.
The pivotal event came in January 1963, while he was directing a Phoenix production of Robert Sherwood's drama Abe Lincoln in Illinois, starring Hal Holbrook. Mr. Holbrook had performed his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight! during the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle at an 800-seat playhouse built for the fair, and he had discussions with Seattle officials about establishing a theater company there.
Through Mr. Holbrook's intervention, Mr. Vaughan became the founding artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Theater, a thriving company today. He directed three of its five shows its first season, including the inaugural production, King Lear, which opened in November 1963.
For a while he was an itinerant teacher, director and actor -- he spent time in England, working with resident theaters there on a Fulbright scholarship -- before arriving in New York in 1952. He worked in various Broadway productions as an actor in small roles and as a stage manager before directing staged readings of two dramatizations of the playwright Sean O'Casey's autobiography. Those shows, performed at the 92d Street Y, received positive reviews and brought him to the attention of Mr. Papp.
Among other ventures, Mr. Vaughan subsequently taught at Harvard and the University of Vermont (and elsewhere) and, with his wife and Vincent Curcio, headed an itinerant repertory company of 15 actors, the New Globe Theater, which toured the United States and brought plays including The Glass Menagerie, Hedda Gabler and Waiting for Godot to communities and colleges underserved by professional theater.
Source: The New York Times obituary