Paul Foster, Innovative Playwright And Founding Member Of La MaMa, Dies At 89

Foster was the author of eighteen plays, including Elizabeth 1, Tom Paine and Satyricon.

By: Mar. 24, 2021
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Paul Foster, Innovative Playwright And Founding Member Of La MaMa, Dies At 89

Paul Foster, innovative playwright, founding member and first Board President of the internationally renowned La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, died peacefully at home in New York City on Friday, March 5th. He was 89.

Foster was the author of eighteen plays, including Elizabeth 1, Tom Paine and Satyricon as well as the libretto and lyrics for the musical Silver Queen Saloon.

Fourteen books of his works have been published internationally.

Foster won numerous awards including Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships, National Endowment for the Arts and a British Arts Council Award.

Born on October 15, 1931 in Penns Grove, New Jersey, he studied journalism at Rutgers University. He moved to Manhattan at the age of 21 to study law at New York University School of Law and upon graduation served two years in the Navy.

Foster developed an interest in theatre while living in New York City.

He met Ellen Stewart, a fashion designer planning to open her own boutique.

Foster agreed to help Ms. Stewart with her boutique in exchange for using the basement space as a theatre in the evenings.

Stewart's enthusiasm, charisma and gifts for producing quickly eclipsed her idea for a boutique.

La MaMa was born and continues to operate with a robust international schedule today.

Foster was a director's playwright and he found a productive creative relationship and lifelong friendship with the late Tom O'Horgan.

O'Horgan's eye-opening production of Foster's Tom Paine received acclaim and a lengthy run Off Broadway. Tom Paine introduced a historical premise with revolutionary staging that captured the international theatrical imagination.

La MaMa became an international theatrical ambassador for Off-Off Broadway by touring Downtown theatre abroad during the 1960's.

Foster's productions were featured and popular with audiences leading his works to be known in Europe where they continue to be produced globally at such venues as Paris' Theatre National de Chaillot, Bucharest's Bulandra Theatre, then under the direction of Liviu Ciulei, and London's Royal Court, to name a few.

His plays have been translated into fifty-two languages.

Foster's archives can be found at the Archibald S. Alexander Library on the campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

Foster's avocation was architecture, gardening and pit-bull rescue. He restored and landscaped 23 historic properties over forty years.

He died peacefully at home with loved ones after a heroic battle with Parkinson's Disease.

A memorial will be planned post-Covid.

Donations to La MaMa, ETC. are requested for anyone wishing to make a tribute in his honor.


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