Reading the latest issue of American Theatre magazine, I belatedly discovered that Charles Marowitz died May 2 at the age of 80 from Parkinson’s disease. Marowitz was an American-born director, playwright, critic, and all-around man of the theater with whom I intersected at two significant moments in my life. In the first month of my freshman year at Rice University, I auditioned for the campus theater company the Rice Players’ production of A Macbeth, Marowitz’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, and was cast as Duncan. (Can you say boy-king? I believe there was a lot of Streaks and Tips involved, and my first beard.) Marowitz created a kind of collage out of Shakespeare’s text, rearranging and repeating scenes and inviting a highly abstract production style, which is what appealed to Sandy Havens, the Rice Players’ adventurous director. For instance, in the first murder scene of the play, the three witches held me down while Lady M guided Macbeth’s sword as he stabbed me to death — not your usual way of playing that scene!
I’d never heard of Charles Marowitz before that, but he entered my young impressionable mind as a titan of the theater. It was only fitting, then, that when I started making my way in the world as a theater journalist (after graduating from Boston University with a BFA in acting) my first publication in a scholarly journal was an interview with Marowitz in Yale’s excellent Theater magazine. Joel Schechter was the editor then, and Colette Brooks was his trusty second-in-command. Marowitz had written a play about Antonin Artaud’s stint in a mental hospital, Artaud at Rodez, and it was getting its American premiere at Brandeis University. I’d just started writing theater reviews and features for the Boston Phoenix, under the tutelage of Carolyn Clay, and it meant a lot to me to get the assignment to meet with Marowitz and hear him talk about his engagement with Artaud, one of 20th century theater’s more enigmatic visionaries. The play wasn’t great (mostly I remember joking with Carolyn, trying to come up with a headline for her Phoenix review — “Society Steps on Artaud” was obviously too good to actually appear in the paper) but I treasured meeting the man (below). He lived up to his reputation as a sharp, opinionated intelligence.