David Wheeler Memorial Service Set for May 14 at Loeb Drama Center

The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), in association with Harvard UniversityOffice for the Arts and StageSource, will host a memorial service to celebrate the life and accomplishments of its longtime Resident Director, Harvard University alumnus, and Boston director David Wheeler, who passed away unexpectedly on January 4th of this year. The celebration will include friends, colleagues, and family who knew and loved David, and all are invited to attend.

The memorial will be held at 6:00pm on Monday, May 14th in the theater of the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge where many of David’s productions were performed, and will be followed by a reception in the lobby of the theater.

David Wheeler directed over two hundred plays in his long career. As Resident Director at the A.R.T. since 1984 and later Associate Artist, he directed over twenty productions, most recently HaroldPinter’s No Man’s Land in 2007 (receiving the Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards for Best Director, and IRNE for Best Production). Other highlights at A.R.T. include The Homecoming, The Caretaker, Misalliance, Man and Superman (Eliot Norton, Best Production), David Mamet’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya (with Christopher Walken), Don DeLillo’s Valparaiso and The Day Room, How I Learned to Drive (with Debra Winger), What the Butler Saw, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Waiting for Godot, Gillette, and Sam Shepard’s Angel City and True West.

David was born in Boston and raised in Belmont and Daytona Beach, where his family moved after his father’s death; he attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Harvard in 1947. His college years were interrupted by WWII, when he served in the U.S. Army, 331st Infantry Regiment, with campaigns in the Rhineland and Ardennes. After the war Davidstudied at Biarritz, returning to Harvard to receive an MA in Comparative Literature under Harry Levin. He trained with José Quintero at Circle-in-the-Square and was his assistant director for four years during the great ‘O’Neill years’ of the 1950’s.

David also worked at the Circle-in-the-Square School assisting Edward Albee and Alan Schneider in their playwriting and directing workshops. He directed Off-Broadway, created a summer season at the Lake Sunapee Playhouse in New Hampshire, and directed at Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania and at the Rockport Playhouse. In 1964, he married Bronia Sielewicz, an actress (and teacher) whom he had met after the war and who first introduced him to theatre working at the Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge.

David founded the Theater Company of Boston (TCB) in 1963 with producer Naomi Thornton and Fred Kimball (and later producer Frank Cassidy) to introduce new European theatre (Beckett, Genet, Ionesco, Pinter) as well as new American plays to Boston audiences. He was Artistic Director of TCB through 1975, directing over eighty productions, among them ten plays by Pinter, seven byBrecht, five by Albee, nine by Beckett, two by O’Neill, and numerous works by new writers such as Ed Bullins, Jeffrey Bush, John Hawkes, Adrienne Kennedy, and Sam Shepard. He directed the American premieres of Pinter’s The Dwarfs, A Slight Ache, and The Room, among twenty other world or American premieres. He helped launch the careers of then unknown actors including Paul Benedict, Larry Bryggman,John Cazale, Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, Hector Elizondo, Spalding Gray, Paul Guilfoyle, Dustin Hoffman, John Karlen, Joseph Maher, Al Pacino, Jon Voight, Ralph Waite, J.T. Walsh, and James Woods. TCB also helped to launch the New African Company in 1968, led by James Spruill and Gustave Johnson.

On Broadway David directed Richard III with Al Pacino, and David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, for which Mr. Pacino won the Tony Award for Best Actor. David directed several times Off- and Off-Off Broadway. Regional theatres include the Guthrie Theatre (Associate ArtisticDirector), Berkeley Rep, Alley Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Playhouse, Actors Studio Theatre, and the Charles de Rochefort Theatre in Paris, where he directed the French premiere of EdwardAlbee’s The Zoo Story.

Local theaters include Gloucester Stage, Charles Playhouse (Betrayal, Death of a Salesman), New Repertory Theatre, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, Vineyard Playhouse, and over fifteen productions at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence (including Hurly Burly, Fool for Love, A Lie of the Mind, The House of Blue Leaves, and Tom Griffin’s The Boys Next Door, also presented at the A.R.T.). David’s most recent credits include Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Book of Grace for Company One last spring (IRNE nominations for Best Production and Best Director), preceded by Brecht’s The Life of Galileo for Central Square/Underground Railway Theatre, and Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet for Shakespeare Now’s theatre for young audiences.

David directed several times for television (WGBH, WNET, Metromedia Playhouse), and directed the independent film The Local Stigmatic (with Al Pacino and Paul Guilfoyle), adapted from the play by Heathcote Williams, which screened at the Montreal Film Festival, Whitney Museum, MOMA, and is now available on DVD.

He taught and directed at Harvard University, Boston University, MIT, Brandeis, Barnard, Colorado College, Circle-in-the-Square, UNC Chapel Hill, UC Irvine and Long Beach, and Evora,Portugal.

Honors include the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, the St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts, a citation from Gov. Dukakis for his work on The Boys Next Door, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Award. David was an honorary member of The Actors Studio.

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