“An Extraordinary Artist and Teacher”
Director and playwright Jon Lipsky believed actors and directors could learn from the collaborative nature of theater| From Obituaries | By Samantha DuBois (CAS’12)
Jon Lipsky, pictured here in 1997, had a keen ability to tap into emotions and translate them to the stage. Photo by Vernon Doucette
As a director, Jon Lipsky knew how to elicit the best from his actors. He believed that art lay hidden in the depths of one’s body, one’s soul, and one’s dreams.
“He did not force the work, he summoned it,” says Christopher Bannow (CFA’09), one of Lipsky’s students and a cast member in his 2008 production of The Wild Place. “Magically and reliably, he summoned it.”
Lipsky, a College of Fine Arts professor of playwriting and acting at the School of Theatre for 28 years and the associate artistic director at the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha’s Vineyard, died on March 19, 2011. He was 66.
Lipsky’s keen ability to tap into emotions and translate them to the stage earned him critical acclaim. In 2007, he received the Elliot Norton Award for Best Direction for the plays Coming Up for Air (Alliger Arts) and King of the Jews (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), which Leslie Epstein, director of BU’s Creative Writing Program, adapted from his novel of the same name.
Born in New York City, Lipsky graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and earned a bachelor’s in English from Oberlin College. He later earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop before joining the Peace Corps and working in India.
In the late 1970s, Lipsky became the in-house dramatist for Boston Theatre Works. During this time, he wrote Beginner’s Luck, They All Want to Play Hamlet, and A Matter of Ecstasy. His later plays included Maggie’s Riff, Molly Maguire, Book of Revelations, and The Survivor: A Cambodian Odyssey. Lipsky also adapted Homer’s The Iliad for his play Living in Exile, and Jack London’s novel Call of the Wild.
His book Dreaming Together: Explore Your Dreams by Acting Them Out was published in 2008. Dreams provided the basis for Lipsky’s full-length plays Dreaming with an AIDS Patient and The Wild Place.
Lipsky also served as playwright-in-residence at the Museum of Science and the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Mass. Yet the relationships he formed with his students, actors, and colleagues remain his greatest legacy.
“Jon Lipsky was an extraordinary artist and teacher, but I will remember him most for his gentleness, generosity of spirit, and powerful friendship,” says Jim Petosa, director of the School of Theatre.
Lipsky regarded his students as equals, believing that both actor and director could learn from the collaborative nature of theater.
“Jon understood people and artists in a way that allowed him to make connections in a very short period of time deeper than most people can make in a lifetime,” says Collin Meath (CFA’10), another cast member of The Wild Place. “He taught me how to truly take risks and that in taking risks, we can discover the real joys of living.”