( b. Aug 21, 1923 Brooklyn, New York, USA - d. Sep 23, 2013 Santa Barbara, California, USA ) Male
The Rev. Sidney Lanier first tried to revive his dwindling congregation on the fringe of Manhattan's Theater District by summoning actors to the pulpit to read stirring passages from the Bible and great literature. Then, in 1963, he dispensed with the pulpit -- the altar and pews, too -- to try something really dramatic.
Mr. Lanier gutted the sanctuary of his church, St. Clement's Episcopal, a brick Victorian Gothic edifice built in the 19th century, to make a home for the American Place Theater, an experimental stage company that he and two partners founded to showcase serious-minded new playwrights and actors.
Among the young artists who emerged in its productions in the 1960s, '70s and '80s were Sam Shepard, Terrence McNally, Steve Tesich, David Mamet, Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Barkin, Eric Bogosian and Sam Waterston.
Mr. Lanier and Wynn Handman, who has now been artistic director of the American Place Theater for 50 years, produced some of the company's first shows together, including The Old Glory, a trilogy of one-act plays by the poet Robert Lowell that won five Obie Awards in 1965.
That same year, Mr. Lanier left the priesthood. After wearing the priestly collar for 15 years, he said, he was ready "to escape the prison of the stereotype of the clergyman."
He continued to serve as president of the theater company while pursuing a professional stage career of his own, landing his first role on Broadway in 1967 opposite Jean Arthur in The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake, a comedy that closed after several preview performances.
The American Place Theater continued producing plays at St. Clement's until 1971, when it moved to another location. Since then, St. Clement's has continued the mission set out for it in 1963, hosting community theater groups, musical performances and lecture series.
Source: The New York Times obituary