Magazine article American Theatre

Benjamin Mordecai III: 1944-2005

Magazine article American Theatre

Benjamin Mordecai III: 1944-2005

Article excerpt

Benjamin Mordecai, who was associate dean and chairman of the Yale School of Drama's department of theatre management, as well as a former managing director of Yale Repertory Theatre and founder/producing director of Indiana Repertory Theatre, was the only person to have worked on all the plays in August Wilson's 10-play cycle. Mordecai brought five Wilson works (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson and Two Trains Running) to Broadway. In partnership with Wilson, Mordecai subsequently founded the production company Sageworks, dedicated to producing the recent plays in the cycle. Mordecai also produced Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, Robert Schenkkan's The Kentucky Cycle and David Henry Hwang's Golden Child.

Benjamin Mordecai and I had planned to sail down the Nile River to celebrate our 60th birthdays. The gods, irascible giants, had other plans. They stormed through the house breaking the dishes and knocking over the candle, leaving Ben consumed by the fire with a finality that shames death.

I met Ben in 1982 when we were both 37 years old. Ben had come to Yale School of Drama from Indiana Repertory Theatre, and I had just written my first play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. We met on the grounds of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn. Little did we know then that we were about to embark on an improbable journey through the landscape of the American theatre, making milestones of our lives along the way.

During that journey Ben became my friend, my partner, my confidant and my brother. His warmth, his intelligence (nothing ever went over his head), his sense of humor, his recognition of humanity in whatever instance it presented itself, his generosity that manifested itself in countless and sometimes surprising ways--all these made him endearing. …

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