The League of Professional Theatre Women remembers honored members who have recently passed away.
Paula J. Riley
Beloved LPTW member Paula J Riley passed away on July 1st, 2018. Her work as an actress, director, and acting coach helped shape the careers of so many that came her way. In 2013, Paula founded The Spiral Theatre Studio, which, within a year, became home to five equity showcase stage productions, six readings, and three fundraisers. The Studio went on to become a premier incubator for Off-Off-Broadway plays, offering artists around the world an innovative space to grow sustainable theater in New York City.
Paula was a warm and dedicated member of the League, often welcoming new members at LPTW events. Fellow member Denise B. Flemming was mentored by Riley for many years and shared the following story about their introduction:
“As an actress and playwright, I’m always looking for a connection. In December 2014, I emailed Paula J, Riley. I spoke with her about my one-woman show and told her that I was looking for a theatre and director. On 12/12/14, she responded about the piece, ‘Very powerful writing and performing of terrible facts. I am a believer in the use of theater as a means of imperative communication about the world we live. We are like-minded. Please stay in touch.'”
Later that year, Flemming pursued a membership with the League. She attended a mixer at which she met Riley in person for the first time. Flemming reflected, “As I made my way into the crowded room, I noticed a woman walking towards me. She had a beautiful smile. I extended my hand and introduced myself. She extended her hand and said with a warm smile ‘I’m Paula J. Riley.’”
Riley went on to sponsor Flemming’s application for membership to the League, and the two became lifelong collaborators and friends.
Flemming wrote, “We shared wonderful conversations. And working with Paula as a dramaturg and director on my one-woman show was an experience I will always treasure. We were destined to meet and share as artists. I will keep that beautiful smile in my heart…. forever.”
From everyone at the League who knew you, Paula, thank you for kind heart, generous spirit, and passionate soul. Your work and dedication to your craft was a true inspiration. You will be greatly missed.
It’s difficult to convey the feelings that swarm into one’s head upon learning of the death of a friend. Joanne Jacobson was not only my friend, but she had a family of friends in the theatre community whose lives she touched in innumerable and profound ways. Her generosity of spirit, her sparkling smile and lilting laughter provided a warm breath of companionship.
Joanne and I became acquainted on our League of Professional Women sojourns to London and the Humana Festival in Louisville. Upon our return to New York, we continued the English tradition of having afternoon tea in the Palm Court at the Plaza or convening with mutual friends for a “healthy” lunch and laughter.
I remember her devotion to playwrights and her quest to encourage contemporary dramatic literature. New Dramatists President Emerita, Isobel Robins introduced her to this organization where she served on the Board with distinction for many years. “She was there for every playwright and forged relationships with them,” Isobel recalls.
Perhaps playwright, Kia Corthron describes Joanne best.
“I couldn’t possibly express in a few words what a dear friend Joanne Jacobson was to me. She absolutely adored playwrights: providing a retreat in her Key West home (and fully subsidizing the associated travel and expenses), funding commissions and fellowships, offering her beautiful presence at readings and productions. I’d written my play Breath, Boom in Key West (because I’d gone several times, our running joke was to call it “Kia West”). Afterward she wanted to read it, and she loved to tell the story of how she tried to print it but the pages went flying everywhere and she could never figure out the order because I hadn’t numbered them. (I had.) I could share a thousand funny playwriting anecdotes like that but our relationship went far beyond the theatre. We were close. We shared our personal stresses and our personal joys. My heart aches to know I’ll never again hear her latest Emma story or her protective scolding or her laughter. There will never ever, ever be another Joanne and I am so so lucky to have called her my friend.”
Joanne F. Jacobson (née Joanne Louise Fox) was born December 19, 1932 in Cambridge, MA and raised in Lowell. She moved to NYC in 1952 where she studied at Barnard and then the Actor’s Studio. Her theater credits include The Crucible, Uncle Vanya and Naomi Court; film credits include Midnight Cowboy, Falling From Grace and Desirée.
She is survived by her daughter and son, Jennifer and J.R. Hellman, step-son, James Jacobson Jr. and her grandson, Dexter Jerome Nicholson. The date of her passing was June 8, 2018 in NYC.
~ LPTW member Harriet Slaughter
Sharon B. Rupert
Sharon B. Rupert (Sherry) daughter of J. Fredrick Rupert and Carolyn B. Rupert, was born May 21, 1938 in Toledo, Ohio, and passed away on May 12, 2018 in her home in Sag Harbor, New York. She graduated from Maumee Valley Country Day School in Ohio in 1956 and Wheaton College in Norton, MA in 1960.
Immediately after graduation she set forth to New York, living in the city for 42 years. She worked in financial and theater management at Circle in the Square Theater, Martinique Theater, APA-Phoenix Repertory Company, Queens Theater in the Park, Wagner Festival Theatre, City Center and Guild Hall of East Hampton. She was also Vice President and Treasurer of Brooklyn Academy of Music and managed several summer theaters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
She was a lecturer and panelist, a member of the Junior League of N.Y. and on the board of The League of Professional Theatre Women, The Hampton Day School, Maidstone Regional Theatre and Technical Assistance Group.
Her heart was always in the theater and she was always involved with her animals. Lucky, her horse joined her from the Midwest and was boarded in East Hampton and seven Golden Retrievers, beginning with Queenie when Sherry was eight, followed by Antigone, Timber, Quincy, Rupert, Clara, and Roman until 2018. She opened her home to many friends and family; and made their children a big part of her life.
She loved giving parties. Her Kentucky Derby parties were an annual celebration. She was also known for her many hats and scrapbooks.
Survivors include her brother, John (Bonnie) of Goleta, CA, and her sister Joan of Littleton, CO. Nephews, Shawn, Michael, Francis (Jamie), Mara (Nick), and great nieces Emily and Natalie.
A celebration of her life was held in her back yard on May 21, 2018, which would have been her 80th birthday. Memorial contributions may be sent to the American Kidney Foundation or the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.
Our dearest Martha Coigney was the Queen of International Theater, as well as a devoted member of The League of Professional Theater Women.
She was invited to reign at every International Festival or conference that I ever attended, and I often wondered who she was and why she was so revered. That question was answered by speaking to her personally and hearing her vibrant and enthusiastic support for theater “heroes,” which she called all theatre artists. But also hearing how she shepherded ITI, the International Theater Institute, into an ongoing bridge between countries, even during the Cold War days of the Iron Curtain. Martha made sure that fellow artists on both sides of the curtain could be recognized and connected in spite of heavy censorship and surveillance.
Her gifts of heart, tact and intelligence have served artists worldwide in spite of dangerous politics, while we at the League have benefitted from her steadfast presence among us, as a glorious hostess of meet-ups and a supporter and founding member of the LPTW Gilder/Coigney International Award.
~ Maxine Kern, former Co-President of the LPTW
Billie Allen, a beloved co-founder of The League, passed away from us a few days ago. We recently experienced her wonderful energy and wisdom as a founding President in the Networking Committee’s “Meet the Presidents” session. She began the discussion by explaining why we need a supportive League of our own in a world that doesn’t recognize women in theatre sufficiently. She spoke with a verve and commitment that clearly hadn’t flagged, and a message that was remarkably sharp and on target today.
Billie was interviewed for our Oral History at the NYPL Bruno Walter Auditorium’s first standing-room-only event. She filled the stage with the grace of an actress who understands and appreciates the love of an audience, come to see her on stage.
Betty Corwin, a long cherished member of The League and the curator and founder of our Oral History Program and of The New York Public Library’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, said the following when she heard the news of Billie’s passing:
“I am devastated. Billie was a dear friend and a remarkable woman. She was dedicated, giving, active, liberal and her mind and memory were as sharp as someone half her age. She was so pleased to be interviewed for our Oral History which is preserved for posterity and captures her grace and warm personality… oh how she will be missed.”
We all miss you, Billie! We all appreciate who you have been and what you have done to inspire us to be the best we can be.
~ Maxine Kern, former Co-President of the LPTW
Margaret Croyden was a distinguished journalist, theater scholar, a long-time Drama Desk voter, and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women. died last night.
At the Annual General Drama Desk Meeting on November 12, 2014, Margret was honored for her contributions to arts, journalism and to The Drama Desk organization. Similarly, as a long time member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, Margret was most recently our recipient of a LPTW Life Time Achievement Award.
Over the years, Margaret’s articles and criticism have appeared in The Village Voice, The Nation, the New York Times, TheaterWeek, and American Theater Magazine, among other publications. Her books include Conversations with Peter Brook and the groundbreaking 1974 study Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets: The Contemporary Experimental Theater. During the 1970s, Margaret was host of the television arts program “Camera Three” on CBS; and, for the past 17 years, she contributed a regular column, “Croyden’s Corner,” to New York Theatre Wire. Her collected works, including over 50 taped interviews with Peter Brook and other theater figures, to original manuscripts, have been archived in Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library.
Information about her background and about her life as an actress and a journalist as described in her recently published book,The Years In Between, can be found at margaretcroyden.com.
Margret was a true theatre pioneer and a women warrior for experimental theatre.
~ Maxine Kern, former Co-President of the LPTW
Margery Klain, 80, passed away on Friday, September 11, 2015. An Indianapolis native, Margery was a 1953 graduate of Shortridge High School and 1955 graduate of Stephens College and devoted her life’s work to the Fine Arts. During her extensive career Margery worked for the Indianapolis 500 Festival, Starlight Musicals, Indiana Repertory Theater, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Pops. She also served as Lead Producer on four Off-Broadway shows and was owner of Theater Four in New York City for nearly a decade.
Margery served on the boards of the League of Professional Theatre Women and the New York Theatre Workshop. She is survived by her son Mark Silbermann, daughter Leslie Silbermann, son and daughter-in-Law Larry and Sally Silbermann, granddaughter Hattie Silbermann and sister Sharlette Mordoh.
A family visitation will be held on Friday, October 9th at 10:00am followed immediately by a celebration of her life at Flanner and Buchanan: 2706 Kessler Blvd. West Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46228
In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made in her name to either Penn Wissahickon Hospice (3535 Market Street, Suite 750 Philadelphia, PA 19104) or the League of Professional Theatre Women (520 8th Avenue, 24th Floor New York, NY 10018).
Sondra Gorney was an actress, author, and beloved member of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She will be deeply missed.
Sondra began her acting career in Chicago in theatre, radio and the Federal Theatre; then in New York and Hollywood. She was also an editor for Pic, a national news magazine and covered Hollywood where she married Jay Gorney, a film and stage composer. They co-produced several musical revues including “Meet the People.”
In New York, they established the first musical play department at the New School and the American Theatre Wing professional training program. Then she had a career as a Public Relations Executive for non-profit organizations, as well as top corporations.
Her return to theatre was via the Off- Broadway route before performing in Equity productions, as well as films and TV. Her most recent performance was as Mrs. Hobson in Stuart Vaughan’s “The Scarlet Letter” at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Other credits include “Mind Tricks” (Vital Theatre), “Aunt Vanya” (78th St. Theatre Lab), and “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral” ( Soho Playhouse) for a four year run. Earlier various productions were at the Vineyard Theatre , Westside Repertory, Duality and Ubu Theatres; seven feature films including “The Producers” ; and in TV’s “Law and Order.”
Sondra was the author of two books: “After Forty, How Women Can Achieve Fulfillment,” and “ Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Life of Composer Jay Gorney.”
In addition to her membership in Equity and SAG/AFTRA, she was a proud member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, the New York Sheet Music Society, and on the board of the New York Coalition of Women in the Arts and Media.
Laurie James was born in Portland, Oregon on January 31, 1930 to Vernon and Welles Harper, with sister Gwen. From an early age Laurie was modeling and acting with The Portland Children’s Theatre and at school.
Following High School came to New York to pursue her dream of acting, and attended the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. She also attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland where she studied poetry and drama (she later received an honorary degree.in the Arts). She then returned to the East Coast where she apprenticed and then starred in many Summer Stock productions. It was there that she met Clifton James, her future husband. Summer ended and she returned to New York, married and had 5 children: Mike, Winkie, Hardy, Lynn and Mary, and step-daughter Cory . While raising five children she continued her creative ambitions including creating her own program called “Poetry Listen-In” which brought poetry to life for the children and which she performed it throughout New York.
A historian and researcher in heart she focused on women’s neglected place in history, notably Margaret Fuller but all women s place in shaping our society and world. Years of research and study produced a wealthy body of work on the forgotten life of this historic figure by Laurie. Four books: “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller”, “The Wit and Wisdom of Margaret Fuller Ossoli”, “Why Margaret Fuller Ossoli is Forgotten” and “How I Got to Harvard, Off and On Stage with Margaret Fuller”. She also wrote “Outrageous Questions, Legacy of Bronson Alcott and America’s One-Room Schools.
Across the country and Asia she offered her award-winning one woman presentation about the life and influence of Margaret Fuller entitled “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller. Other plays Laurie wrote and performed are: “Yellow Wallpaper”, based on an early feminist work by Charlotte Gilman, “O, Excellent Friend” on the friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, “Winter Wheat” an original work on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Many other plays, including “Numb is a Freezing Point”, were written. Her final work “Heartblood” being one she was most proud of, dealing with the human rights issue of female genital mutilation was presented by the Actors’ Chapel at St. Malachy’s Church in June with a fall production scheduled for London.
Many will remember Laurie’s gifts as an actress, playwright and historian as well as her warmth, creatively and caring presence. She was a member of The Dramatists Guild, The Actors Studio P/D Unit, The American Renaissance Theater, The League of Professional Theater Women and the UU Women Organization.
Laurie passed away in her beloved New York City on July 22, 2015, leaving a rich legacy of a brilliant body of work, and a beloved family including her husband, her children, 14 grand-children and 4 great-grand-children who are blessed with the gift of having shared their lives with her.
Born in Philadelphia, Marion lived in Providence 25 years working in various administrative capacities at Trinity Rep under the Artistic Direction of Adrian Hall. Among them: Education and Humanities Projects, Equity contracts and negotiations, casting and company management, touring, fundraising, subscription, public and press relations. Taught Theatre Management at Rhode Island College chaired the Langston Hughes Center for the Arts, was a member of the R.I. Film Commission and R.I. Committee for the Humanities, translated L’Atelier for Trinity Rep and Crystal Night for UBU. She lived in NYC and volunteered at the Actors’ Work Program of the Actors’ Fund and was a trustee of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theatre on Cape Cod. She held degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (BA), Brown University (MA), and Rhode Island College (Honorary), and received the 2001 Adrian Hall Award at the Pells Award for Excellence in the Arts in Rhode Island. She was instrumentally involved in the LPTW International Committee, and served on the LPTW Board for many years.
HONEY WALDMAN was involved with just about every aspect of theatrical activity. Starting with being an apprentice at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine, graduating into her first paid position working for Miss Duffy at the Shubert office ushering! During spring break On the Town, during Christmas break Othello, saw each show 12 times, and was paid for it. Glorious! Then to actress, prop girl, backstage technician, stage manager, producer, and theatre owner, having built and owned the Tappan Zee Playhouse (now the nonprofit theatre in Nyack, known as the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center). The Playhouse established a national reputation for professional productions and all-star casts that included Jack Benny, Helen Hayes, and Liza Minnelli. She built and operated the Off Broadway Bouwerie Lane Theatre, and produced the highly successful Family Business at the Astor Place Theatre, as her own theatre was fully booked. Honey established the Honey Waldman Fund at the League of Professional Theatre Women as a special fund for members in need. She majored in English at Emerson, with a minor in speech and drama, and established the Waldman Chair in Theater Arts, in the Emerson Department of Performing Arts in 2007, funded by Honey Waldman (Emerson ’46) and her sister, Gladys Waldman Brownstein, in honor of their parents, Harry Waldman and Dora Winiker. Suzan Lori Parks is the 2013 Waldman Chair at Emerson.
Sally Dixon Wiener
WIENER–Sally Ann Dixon, of Manhattan and Aquinnah, died at her NY home on November 13th. Born in Burlington, Iowa on September 18, 1926 to George and Ellen Dixon. Sally attended Tucson High School and earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Arizona. Beginning with her “junior year abroad” at Barnard College, she loved New York City and after writing for dailies in the west she returned to work for several papers in New York. She wrote short stories under the name Samuel Devon Warner. She later studied piano and playwriting at the New School and wrote many musicals and plays which were produced at The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and Off Off Broadway venues in New York. A member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, The Dramatists Guild, and The Writers Room, she wrote for the Dramatist’s Guild Quarterly and The Best Plays of the Year series. Excellent linguist and fearless traveler, deft artist, endlessly patient mother, Sally was a woman of great humor and resilience. She was predeceased by her husband John A. Wiener and brother George L. Dixon. Sally will be missed, every day, by her children John Wiener, Ellen Wiener, and Ann Stodder; brother-in-law Geoffrey Wiener; companion Van Rogers; grandchildren Sophia, Emma, Claire and Samuel; by Michael and Andrew Wiener and many other nephews and nieces, and by her friends in New York and on the Vineyard. Service at 3pm, December 20. Church of the Ascension, 12 West 11th St., New York.
Published in The New York Times on Dec. 1, 2013
– See more here
Francoise was the founder and artistic director of Ubu Repertory Theater in New York from 1982-2001. She also founded with of Joseph Chaikin and Meredith Monk The Center for Theater Practice. Many knew her as an ambassador of French theatrical culture, introducing many French and francophone playwrights to the US audience by translating and presenting their work.
Berenice Weiler, a producer and theatrical general manager, died of natural causes in Manhattan on April 28. She was 88.
She worked as an advance director for star-package shows on the summer stock circuit, including the resident stock theater in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Later Weiler joined a USO tour to entertain occupation forces in Europe in the wake of WWII. After returning to the U.S., she eventually found work in live television, first as a casting director and then as an associate producer on dramas including “Hallmark Hall of Fame.” She was associate producer of “Sid Caesar Presents” on NBC and later ABC, subsequently taking the show to London for a season on British TV.
Returning to stage work, Weiler joined the management of the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford, Conn., rising to managing producer. She resigned in 1973 to become the administrative director for Frank Dunlop’s BAM Theater Company.
With Marilyn S. Miller she formed Weiler/Miller in 1978. The New York-based general management firm managed many Broadway and Off Broadway productions, including “Nine.”
Weiler was executive Director of the University/Resident Theater Assn., president and a founding member of the League of Professional Theater Women, Secretary-Treasurer of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers and the president of the National Theater Conference. She was also adjunct professor at the U. of Miami.
Weiler was a lifelong resident of Manhattan and attended Hunter College.
Donations may be made to the Actors Fund.
Norma Langworthy passed on Saturday, January 28th, 2012. Norma was a producer with a shining resume of Broadway and Off-Broadway credits. Her Broadway credits included: Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (winner of Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Play and a Tony Nomination for Best Revival of a Play); Sweet Sue, Getting and Spending, The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Off-Broadway: Cliffhanger, The Perfect Party, The Road to Mecca, and The Springhill Singing Disaster. Contributions can be made in her memory to the Roundabout Theatre, and condolences can be sent to one of her daughters, Mrs. Leslie Beller, at 867 Presidents Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215.
Mary C. Henderson
Mary C. Henderson, a scholar of the theater whose interests as a historian and curator spanned centuries and as a Tony nominator and critic were up to the minute, died on Jan. 3 at her home in Congers, N.Y. She was 83. Ms. Henderson’s most important work, “Theater in America: 250 Years of Plays, Players and Productions” (1986, revised in 1996), is a concise history, valued by students and teachers, that tells the country’s theatrical tale in chapters that focus on individuals and individual professions: producers, playwrights, actors and others. She is survived by her three sons, Doug, James and Stuart, as well as two sisters and four grandchildren. For more information, please see an article written about her in the Theater section of the New York Times by clicking here.
Jen (Jean Bower) passed away at home on July 17. An admired actress who starred on Broadway in “The Sound of Music” and “The Aspern Papers” and tour of “Fiorello,” Ms. Nelson also was a singer in supper clubs. Later, she was a marketing and group sales specialist whose many innovations are still being used. She was a compassionate, selfless person with a zest for life. She always made time to help others and to mentor young people. She will be remembered for her great style, her flair, and her sense of fun. She is survived by her niece Donna Todd of Seattle, her grandniece Carrie Bulmer-King, and great-grandnieces and grandnephews. A celebration of her life is being planned.
Published in The New York Times on July 23, 2010
Heather Duke-Hoover passed away from a sudden illness on July 13, 2010, where she was surrounded by her loved ones. Heather was born in Monticello, NY on September 25, 1942 to Benjamin and Selma Duke. Heather had a long and varied career. She was a registered nurse at Nyack Hospital, a newspaper publisher, a Broadway producer of the musical “Little Women”, she had her own company Duke Marketing Inc, and she was the Director of tourism for Rockland County since 1994. Heather was loved by all who knew her. She was kind, generous and compassionate. Heather is survived by her husband Robert, her three sons Benjamin Lungen, Daniel Lungen, and Joshua Lungen and her brother, Peter Duke. Heather will be missed dearly by her grandchildren Michael, Cory, Tyler, Jessica, Joey and step grandchildren Samantha, Matthew, Gabriella and Chyna. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Sylvia was a former board member and led the LPTW’s Sunshine efforts. She attended and assisted with many events and activities over the years, and she will be missed. Our thoughts are with her family and many friends at this difficult time.