Jorge Ferencz, Innovative Theater Director, Dies at 74
George Ferrenz, a director who was a fixture at theaters known for experimental work such as La Mama Etsy in Manhattan, died on September 14 in Brooklyn. He was 74 years old.
His family told that the reason for this was a cardiac arrest.
Mr. Ferenz (pronounced FAIR-ent) pieces directed by unknown people as well as eponymous writers such as Sam Shepard, Amiri Baraka and Mac Wellman. One feature was giving startling new interpretations to previously staged works, both classic and contemporary. Another unusual way was communicating productions with music; He collaborated several times with jazz drummer Max Roach.
Mr. Ferenz first gained attention in the New York theater world as the founder and co-artistic director of the Impossible Ragtime Theater, better known as IRT, which produced a wide range of productions in small venues in the mid-1970s. series presented. His 1976 staging of Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Hairy Ape” in 1922 gave that work a visceral immediacy.
“The main reason for participating in an off-Off-Broadway show is the one in thousands chance of finding a production such as the Impossible Ragtime Theater’s version of Eugene O’Neill’s ‘The Hairy Ape’,” wrote Glenn Curry of United Press International. Was.
Mr. Ferrenz soon found another breakthrough with O’Neill’s more obscure play, “Dynamo”.
“If the short plays of great playwrights are to be seen,” Mel Gusso wrote in a review in The New York Times, “then Mr. Ferenz’s productions could serve as models.”
Mr. Fairenz left IRT in 1977, but continued to direct Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway, including a mini-festival of Shepard plays at Columbia University in 1979, soon after Mr. Shepard performed “Buried Child”. Won the Pulitzer Prize for
Two years later Mr. Ferenz began full production of one of those pieces under the title “Cowboy Mouth (in concert)”. Here he revisited “Cowboy Mouth”, written by Mr Shepard and Patti Smith and first performed in 1971. Her back was conceived in the production of Mr. Ferrenz, with Brooks McKay and Annette Kurek in roles produced by Mr. Shepard and Ms. Smith. Back-and-forth exchanges as in rock concerts.
“The result,” Mr Gusso wrote in The Times, “is a sizzling, surrealist 70 minutes that in its own way comes closer to Shepard’s anarchic spirit than some elaborate productions of more complete plays.”
Mr. Ferenz’s collaboration Mr. Baraka included directing his “Boy and Tarzan Appear in Clearing” in 1981 at the New Federal Theater in the Henry Street Settlement.
The following year Mr. Ferenz began a long association with Ellen Stewart and his influential experimental theatre, La Mama in Lower Manhattan, directing a portion of “Money, a Jazz Opera” with a book by Mr. Baraka by George Gruntz. had gone. He founded the La Mama Reading Experiments series for experimental work in 1998 and ran it for 16 years.
Mr. Ferenz directed beyond New York’s downtown scene, staging productions at the Actors Theater in Louisville in Kentucky, the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia, the San Diego Repertory Theater and many other venues.
“I view theater as a hammer,” he told The Bangor Daily News in 1979, when he was guest director for a production of Donald Freed’s “Inquest” at the University of Maine, “aggressive and overly dramatic, something like what you can” is not found by flicking the television switch. It should have spectacle and shock value. “
George Michael Ferenz was born on February 3, 1947, in the Hungarian Catholic neighborhood of Cleveland. Her father, George John Ferenz, was an auto-parts store owner, and her mother, Anne (Haidu) Ferenz, was a housewife and a former beauty queen.
He studied journalism at the University of Detroit but transferred to Kent State University in Ohio, where he pursued theatre, directing plays by Edward Albee, Arthur Copit, and others. He graduated in 1970 and settled in New York shortly thereafter.
In 1969 he married Pam Mitchell, who with him became the founder of IRT with Ted Story and Cynthia Crane. The couple divorced in 1978, and in 1986 he married Sally Lesser, a renowned costume designer with whom he had worked for years; He collaborated on some 65 productions.
She escapes him, as does their son, Jack.
In addition to his La Mama work, Mr. Ferenz, co-founder and artistic director of the Theater of the New City, was a favorite of Crystal Fields.
“He had the political and historical understanding that is a necessity for socially relevant theatre,” she said in a statement. “He was a Brechtian director whose mission was not only to connect you emotionally, but also to make you think and think about the world in which the story lives.”
Among Mr. Ferenz’s frequent associates were Mr. Roach, whom he had met at a party at Mr. Baraka’s house; They joined forces in 1984 to stage three Shepard plays performed at the repertory, with Mr. Roach providing the original music. Among his later efforts was a jazz-infused version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” staged at San Diego Rap in 1987.
“George loves jazz and directs that way,” Mr. Roach, who died in 2007, told the San Francisco Examiner in 1987. “He lets things unfold the way people like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington do. He knows where he wants to go, but he gives everyone a chance to contribute.
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