Lanford Wilson – prolific playwright and co-founder of one of America’s most influential theater companies, Circle Rep, died today. Although I never met him, Mr. Wilson and Circle Rep have often been in my mind thanks to InViolet Advisory Board Member and former Circle Rep member Danton Stone. Besides being a company member of Circle Rep, Danton also worked directly with Mr. Wilson several times including originating roles in two of Mr. Wilson’s most famous works, The Fifth of July and Balm in Gilead. Less illustriously but more recently, Danton directed InViolet’s last production, my first play, 40 Weeks.
Angela and I and others in the company have come to Danton for advice and guidance countless times, and on most occasions his answers involved Mr. Wilson and Circle Rep. As a first time playwright and Co-Artistic Director, it was a great comfort to know that the challenges that I and InViolet were facing were the same ones that Mr. Wilson and Circle Rep faced as well. And during a particularly difficult time in the writing of 40 Weeks, I put away the computer, and read Serenading Louie, a play I knew nothing about, but that was similar in style and structure to the play I was working on. It was inspiring. It was proof it could be done.
The next few days will see many tributes to Mr. Wilson. His legacy in American theater is assured. No doubt he has influenced thousands of actors, writers, and audience members. For me and InViolet, he was the mentor we never knew.
Thank you, Danton, for sharing him with us. And thank you, Mr. Wilson, for you life, work, and talent. Travel safely.