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Author, Playwright Anne Commire Passes Away

Anne Commire, author, playwright and women's historian, passed away from cancer at her home in Waterford, Connecticut on February 23, 2012. Four of Commire's plays won O'Neill Awards and she received the prestigious Dartmouth Medal, from the American Library Association, for the groundbreaking 17 volume Women in World History, an encyclopedia of 10,000 women worldwide, published by Yorkin Publications.

Anne Commire was born in Wyandotte, Michigan on August 11, 1939 and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1961. Commire's play, Shay, the first of her four plays to win the prestigious O'Neill Award, was presented at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre Conference and subsequently at the University of North Carolina, ACT in San Francisco, The Westport Country Playhouse (with Sada Thompson), Playwright's Horizon (with Madge Redmond), King's Head in London, the Little Lyceum in Edinburgh and the L.A. Public Theatre (with Karen Morrow).

Her other plays include Put Them All Together, which was cited in Best Plays of 1978-79 and first performed at the O'Neill Theatre Center's National Playwright Conference. Subsequent performances of the play included WPA in New York, the Westchester Theatre, The McCarter Theatre in Princeton and the L.A. Public Theatre. The latter two productions starred Commire's long-time collaborator, actress Mariette Hartley.

"Known to many of her friends as Annie, she was an extraordinary woman, extremely private, a champion of women, a profound and powerful playwright, and a loyal friend with a devilish and infectious sense of humor," said Hartley.

Commire's play Melody Sisters was presented at the O'Neill Playwright's Conference and the L.A. Public Theatre. Her play, Starting Monday, first produced at the O'Neill National Playwright's Conference starring Linda Hunt and subsequently produced at Winterfest at the Yale Repertory Theater, received Commire's fourth O'Neill Award and was nominated for the Outer-Critics' Circle John Gassner Award. Commire's other plays include Matinee Ladies, which was first performed at AWPA at Columbia University.

In 1987, she co-wrote and directed the NOW Show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, a two hour variety show celebrating the 20th anniversary of the National Organization for Women. With her brother, Ron Shedd, she wrote That Lowery Kid for CBS and was a contributing writer on The Dick Cavett Show.

Commire was the recipient of a New York State CAPS Grant in 1975 and a Rockefeller Grant (as a playwright-in-residence at Yale University in 1980-81).

With Mariette Hartley, she co-wrote Breaking the Silence, Hartley's national bestselling autobiography and subsequently contributed to Hartley's one woman stage show.

Commire developed and edited Gale Research's Something About the Author series (volumes 1-64) and Yesterday's Authors of Books for Children (2 volumes) and helped develop and edit Author's and Artists for Young Adults (volumes 1-6). She then served as editor of Historic World Leaders (5 vols., The Gale Group, 1992) and Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through The Ages (3 vols, Yorkin Publications, 2007), in addition to the acclaimed Women in World History (17 vols., Yorkin Publications, 1999-2002). She also wrote for Washington D.C's Spread Eagle Review.

At the time of her passing, she was finishing a lifelong project about her family's struggles during the prohibition era titled, Mooreville.

She is survived by her brother, Ron Shedd; step-sister Judy Trupiano; and several nieces, nephews, cousins, god children and a wonderful golden retriever named Toby.

Her favorite poet Emily Dickinson wrote:
"The soul selects her own society –
Then – shuts the Door –
To her divine Majority –
Present no more –

Her friends, her family and co-workers are deeply grateful to have been a part of Anne's 'society'. She will be sorely missed.

Donations in her memory can be made to: Hospice of Southeastern CT, 227 Dunham St., Norwich, CT 06360.


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