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As a director, Lloyd Richards didn’t just make changes in where actors stood onstage, or how they said their lines. He helped change the way theater was made, who got to make it, and where it was seen.
Richards, who died on June 29 (his 87th birthday), had a hit in 1959 with Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the first Broadway play written by a black woman and the first to be entrusted to a black director. Later, as the head of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, Richards nurtured dozens of new playwrights: under his directorship, the O'Neill willingly slogged through raw works by unproven writers to find fresh voices.
Richards used his position as dean of the Yale School of Drama (which he held from 1979 to 1991) to create further opportunities for his O'Neill discoveries. He also gave work to directors and actors whose careers were otherwise in limbo, letting them experiment in new directions. The seasons he programmed at the Yale Repertory Theatre were wildly varied, and he turned winter break into “Winterfest,” a frenzied lab which tossed up full productions of several new works each year.
Richards and Rep managing director Ben Mordecai sought new ways to take shows to New York, bypassing the entrenched producers, critics, and other poobahs who could kill a worthy show through misunderstanding, commercialism, or dismissiveness. Building on new methods fostered by the regional theater movement, Mordecai and Richards sent a dozen Rep productions to New York—including two Eugene O'Neill revivals, three plays by South African dramatist Athol Fugard, and five dramas by Richards’s best-known collaborator, playwright August Wilson. Wilson, an O'Neill Center find, is now considered the greatest black playwright in theater history.
Despite his fame as a co-producer, artistic director, and discoverer of Pulitzer-winning talents such as Wilson and Lee Blessing, Richards still considered himself a director. He helmed new works by Wilson until he retired from directing in 1999.
Richards won a Tony Award in 1987 for directing Wilson’s Fences. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993. Broadway dimmed its lights in his memory on June 30, but the tributes continue: his family will hold a memorial service for him at Yale this fall.
The W. M. Keck Foundation has named Jonathan Bogan '86, MD, as one of its five Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research for 2006. Bogan, an endocrinologist and assistant professor at the School of Medicine, is studying how certain proteins—including one he and his research team discovered in 2003—enable insulin to cause fat and muscle cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream. His research, which will be supported for up to five years by the Keck Foundation award, may help in the development of treatments for diabetes.
If you know what “fast multipole methods” means, you won’t be surprised to learn that Vladimir Rokhlin, a professor of computer science and mathematics, has just been named an honorary member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. FMM is a computational tool developed by Rokhlin and colleague Leslie Greengard in 1987 that assists with complex calculations in astronomy, engineering, and other areas of technology. FMM was named one of the “top ten algorithms of the twentieth century” by an IEEE journal.
The Association of Yale Alumni will recognize five graduates in November with the Yale Medal, the association’s highest honor for service to the university. They are Philip Boyle '71, former chair of the AYA board of governors; Howard M. Holtzmann '42, '47JD, who endowed the Jewish chaplaincy at Yale; Frederick R. Mayer '50, a member and former chair of the Art Gallery Governing Board; Howard H. Newman '69, '69MA, a member of the University Council and former chair of the Alumni Fund; and Deborah Rose '72, '77MPH, '89PhD, whose gift helped build the new Yale police headquarters and community center.
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