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O'Neill Playwrights Conference to Honor Lloyd Richards

On July 29th, legendary director Lloyd Richards will be honored at this year's Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, CT, Variety reports.

Hosted by O'Neill Center founder George C. White, the event will feature tributes, videos and a barbecue.

For 32 years, from 1968 through 1999, Richards served the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference. While leading the program, he had encouraged and supported the artistic voices of many playwrights, including John Guare, Athol Fugard, John Patrick Shanley and Wendy Wasserstein.

Tony Award-winning director Lloyd Richards, whose distinguished career in the theatre lasted half a century and who nurtured the work of playwrights such as August Wilson, has passed away.

Richards died on June 29th, 2006 at the age of 87.  In 1959, he helmed Lorraine Hansbury's groundbreaking vision of African-American identity, A Raisin in the Sun. It was the first time that a play by a black woman had been produced on Broadway, and certainly the first time that a play by a black woman had been staged by a black director. He directed other shows on Broadway in the early to mid-sixties--including the plays The Long Dream and The Moon Besieged and the musicals I Had a Ball and The Yearling.

A professor of theatre and cinema at Hunter College for a time, he also became head of the actor training program at New York University's School of the Arts in 1966. In the early 80s, he became the artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre and also served as the dean of the Yale School of Drama, retiring from both posts in 1991 but remaining on board as a professor emeritus. Under his leadership (and in collaboration with Managing Director Ben Mordecai), Yale Rep mounted numerous productions that would reach Broadway, including "MASTER HAROLD"...and the boys, Blood Knot, A Walk in the Woods and Long Day's Journey Into Night.

At Yale Rep, he also oversaw the premieres of numerous plays in August Wilson's 10-play chronicle of the African-American experience in the 20th century. There, he directed the first six plays in the series, all of which made it to Broadway--Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running and Seven Guitars. He also directed Wilson's Seven Guitars on Broadway, although that play had not been seen at Yale.

For his work as a director, Richards won a Tony Award for Fences, and also received four more nominations (in addition to numerous nominations as a producer). Yale Rep won a Regional Theatre Tony Award in 1991. He was also the recipient of many other honors, including the Pioneer Award of AUDELCO, the Frederick Douglass Award and the National Medal of the Arts.

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