Aug. 21, 1949 Richmond Richmond City Virginia, USA
May 25, 2002 Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Josephine Abady, 52, Director Of Plays on and Off Broadway By MEL GUSSOW Published: May 30, 2002 Josephine R. Abady, a theater director who staged plays on and off Broadway and was a leader in the nonprofit theater movement, died on Saturday in her home in Manhattan. She lived in Manhattan and Stockbridge, Mass. She was 52. The cause was breast cancer, said her sister, the actress Caroline Aaron. During her career, Ms. Abady was the artistic director of the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge and the Cleveland Playhouse. In the last years of Circle in the Square, she shared the artistic direction of that company with Theodore Mann, one of the company's founders, and Mr. Mann named her as his successor. At Circle in the Square she directed a revival of ''Bus Stop,'' starring Billy Crudup and Mary-Louise Parker, and produced a revival of ''The Rose Tattoo,'' starring Mercedes Ruehl. In 1996, after the theater filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy laws, both Mr. Mann and Ms. Abady resigned their posts. After directing Tom Griffin's play ''The Boys Next Door'' at the Berkshire theater, she brought it to New York where it had a successful run at the Lambs Theater. The play featured Josh Mostel, Joe Grifasi and Christine Estabrook as mentally handicapped residents of a cooperative apartment. She also directed the New York premiere of David Storey's ''March on Russia,'' an elegaic portrait of a family in Yorkshire, England. Under Ms. Abady's direction, the American cast exactingly delineated the regional English characters. In 1991, while she was at the Cleveland Playhouse, she staged a Russian-language version of ''A Streetcar Named Desire'' in Volgograd and then brought the play to Cleveland, where local audiences listened to the English translation over headphones. Ms. Abady was born in Richmond, Va. She graduated from Syracuse University and received a master of fine arts from Florida State University. For several years she taught theater at Bennington College and was head of the theater program at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., before beginning her professional career at the Berkshire Theater Festival, where she specialized in revivals of American plays. When she went to the Cleveland Playhouse, she opened the season with ''Born Yesterday,'' starring Ed Asner and Madeline Kahn, a production that moved to Broadway. Subsequently, she and David Esbjornson directed ''New Music,'' a trilogy by Reynolds Price, and she also presented plays by black and female authors. After six years as artistic director, she was fired by a board of directors that was apparently unhappy with her nontraditional choice of plays. In 1994, with a grant from the American Film Institute, she made a short film, ''To Catch a Tiger,'' inspired by her mother's work as a civil rights activist in the South. The screenplay was written by Ms. Abady's husband, Michael Krawitz, and starred her sister as her mother. In addition to her husband, who lives in Great Barrington, Mass., and her sister, of Los Angeles, she is survived by her brother, Samuel Abady of Bronxville, N.Y.. In spite of her illness, she was highly productive in the last year. She ran a lunchtime series of play readings at the National Arts Club in New York, and also directed plays in Texas and Florida. She returned to Richmond to stage Margaret Edson's ''Wit,'' about a woman who is dying of cancer. When interviewed by a local reporter, she said she had not seen the play before she directed it. ''I live 'Wit,' '' she said. ''I don't need to see it.''