Director, Playwright, and Leader in African-American Theater, Walter Dallas, Dies at 73

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BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that Walter Dallas, director, playwright, musician, teacher, and leader in African-American theater, has died at age 73. According to The New York Times, Dallas' cousin said his cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

Dallas was best known for his leadership of Freedom Theater in Philadelphia, one of the nation's top African-American companies. He led the company from 1992 to 2008. During his time there, Dallas made the theater an Actors Equity house. When it opened its 300-seat auditorium in 2001, his first play was Eugene O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms," with a black cast.

He left Philadelphia in 2008 to become senior artist in residence and co-director of the M.F.A. program in performance at the University of Maryland.

In addition to his work at Freedom Theater, Dallas also worked at The Public Theater and the Negro Ensemble Company in New York, as well as at the Yale Repertory Theater, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and Baltimore Center Stage.

He directed more than 25 world premieres, including August Wilson's "Seven Guitars" at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. He has worked with stars such as James Baldwin, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, among other well-known black writers and actors.

The final play Dallas directed was Richard Wesley's "Autumn" at the Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn in 2016. The drama won six awards from the Audience Development Committee, which honors black theater and artists in New York City.

In addition to directing, Dallas was also a playwright. He wrote "Lazarus, Unstoned" based on the biblical tale, and including music from Stravinsky to Aretha Franklin. Dallas also wrote the script for "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" alongside Ntozake Shange and Allan Slutsky.

Read more on The New York Times.

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