[Marxism] Charles Marowitz, Director and Playwright, Dies at 82
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 11 19:41:15 MDT 2014
(Charles Marowitz was a long-term contributor to Swans Magazine.)
NY Times, May 11 2014
Charles Marowitz, Director and Playwright, Dies at 82
By BRUCE WEBER
Charles Marowitz, who brought a thorny iconoclasm to a versatile theater
career as a director, playwright, teacher and critic, died on May 2 in
Agoura Hills, Calif. He was 82.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Jane
Irrepressible, highly literate and fiercely opinionated, Mr. Marowitz
led an unusual theatrical life in both England and the United States,
occupying seats in a variety of relationships to the stage.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he directed a number of shows on the West End in
London, including Joe Orton’s scabrous farce “Loot” and Sam Shepard’s
dark musical play about celebrity and rock ’n’ roll, “The Tooth of
Crime.” But he was probably best known as a director for his avant-garde
and often unsettling adaptations of Shakespeare, Ibsen and other
generally revered writers.
A natural and gleeful contrarian, he reimagined “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”
as absurdist collages, reassembling the plays’ speeches in a different
order. In his “Hedda Gabler,” applying a hyperbolic Freudian sheen, he
had Hedda riding her father’s back and whipping him like a beast of burden.
The first production of the London company he founded with Thelma Holt,
the Open Space Theater, was “Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” John Herbert’s
tough-minded 1967 drama dealing with homosexuality in prison; Mr.
Marowitz turned the theater itself into a prison, posting actors playing
guards at the theater doors and frisking patrons as they entered.
“The motive behind much of what I do as a director is a profound
dissatisfaction with the psychological and naturalistic vogue which
since the beginning of the century has been associated with, and to a
certain extent glorified by, Stanislavsky and, in America, codified by
the Method,” Mr. Marowitz wrote in one his many theater books, “The
Other Way: An Alternative Approach to Acting and Directing.”
As a playwright, Mr. Marowitz wrote a handful of mysteries, most notably
“Sherlock’s Last Case,” a turgidly if ingeniously plotted tale that was
especially notable for its unpleasant depiction of Sherlock Holmes as an
egomaniacal petty tyrant. The play reached Broadway in 1987, with Frank
Langella in the leading role, received mixed reviews (drubbed by Frank
Rich in The New York Times, it was called “elegant” and “full of
insights into an enduring and fascinating character” by The Daily News)
and ran for 124 performances.
Followers of the popular, as opposed to avant-garde, theater would most
recall Mr. Marowitz from his criticism. He wrote for many publications,
including The Times, for which he chronicled the London theater scene
for many years. An advocate of the brave, the challenging, the
experimental, he could be witheringly dismissive of the commonplace and
hard on artists he admired, holding them to a high standard. He often
wrote with incisiveness, wit and disdain at the same time.
“There are two kinds of bafflement in the theater: the kind that
fascinates as it perplexes, and the kind that just perplexes,” he wrote
in The Times in 1969 in an essay about Mr. Shepard’s play “La Turista,”
which had recently opened in London. “If a play doesn’t make quick
sense, but enters into some kind of dialogue with our subconscious, we
tend to admit it to that lounge where we entertain
“If it only baffles, there are several courses open to us: we can assume
it is ‘above our heads’ or directed ‘to some other kind of person,’ or
regretfully conclude that it confuses us because it is itself confused.
However, the fear of being proved wrong is so great today that almost
every new work which isn’t patently drivel gets the benefit of the
doubt. ‘La Turista,’ at the moment, is basking in a glow of uncertain
approval which is maintained only by suppressing the ennui it
Although many sources say Mr. Marowitz was born in 1934, he was born in
Manhattan on Jan. 26, 1932, according to his birth certificate. He grew
up on the Lower East Side, where he attended Seward Park High School.
His parents, Yudel Marowitz, who was known as Harry, and the former
Tillie Rosenkrantz, were Jewish immigrants from Poland who worked in the
Drafted into the Army, he served in Europe during the Korean War, mostly
editing a base newspaper. After the war, he moved to London and attended
the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he would later teach.
In the early 196os, Mr. Marowitz collaborated with Peter Brook in Royal
Shakespeare Company productions of difficult works like “Marat/Sade” by
Peter Weiss and “The Screens” by Jean Genet. In 1964, they created an
experimental season of Theater of Cruelty, based on the ideas of Antonin
Artaud, who advocated an artifice-shredding theater that attempted to
stimulate an audience’s fundamental fears.
In the company they put together was a little-known actress named Glenda
Jackson, whose fame was propelled when she was cast in a skit to play
both Jacqueline Kennedy and the call girl Christine Keeler (whose
liaison with the British secretary of state for war, John Profumo,
helped bring down the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harold
Macmillan). Shockingly for the time, she appeared onstage naked.
Mr. Marowitz’s brief first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his
wife, the former Jane Elizabeth Allsop, whom he married in 1982, he is
survived by a son, Konstantin, known as Kostya.
Mr. Marowitz, who acknowledged that he was an acerbic and not entirely
tolerant personality, returned to the United States in 1981 and moved to
Los Angeles, where his “Hamlet” was presented at the Los Angeles Actors
Theater (now the Los Angeles Theater Center). That production began an
association that lasted until 1989, when he organized a panel on the
future of theater that caused a ruckus because it included only
In the months before The Los Angeles Herald Examiner folded in 1989, he
served as its theater critic. He founded a new troupe, the Malibu Stage
Company, in 1990 and was its artistic director for a dozen years; the
board of directors removed him in 2002 after he reportedly had insulted
several of its members.
“Maybe I don’t suffer fools gladly,” he said at the time, according to
The Los Angeles Times. Nothing in his contract, he added, said “I had to
be a sweet fellow.”
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