Dan Sullivan, longtime Occasions theater critic and one of many nation’s most generally learn folks, passes away


Dan Sullivan, a longtime theater critic for the Los Angeles Occasions, had a prepared reply when folks requested him what it was prefer to assessment theater for the newspaper.

It was, he stated, “like somebody placing a microphone in your face after each efficiency and yelling, ‘What did you suppose?'”

Sullivan, one of many nation’s best-read theater critics, died of pure causes at his dwelling in Minneapolis on Tuesday as he traveled across the nation reviewing newspapers in Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles. His son, Ben Sullivan, stated. He was 86 years outdated.

A Los Angeles Occasions theater critic from 1969 to 1991, Sullivan beforehand labored for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the New York Occasions. As director of the Eugene O’Neill Nationwide Critics Institute in Waterford, Conn., from 1999 till retiring in 2013, he additionally mentored most of the nation’s present theater critics.

“Dan had a big impact on the whole nation,” stated Chris Jones, a theater critic for the Chicago Tribune and New York Every day Information, in addition to the present director of the O’Neill Nationwide Critics Institute. “And he wrote at a time when regional critics have been an actual pressure.

“Like many critics of his technology, he wrote as a impartial observer of what he noticed. He additionally needed to inform the critics he talked about that a part of his work was to inform folks that within the theater. What is going on on and to reiterate the expertise in a assessment.

“In the event you could not go to see ‘Hamlet,’ Dan would take you there and make you’re feeling such as you’ Had been there that night time.”

A man is reading a newspaper sitting at the work table.

Dan Sullivan in his workplace at The Occasions.

(from Ben Sullivan)

The 1963 season was Sullivan’s first season coated theater for the Minneapolis Tribune, and the 27-year-old critic was notably nervous about overlaying the primary present on the metropolis’s model new and extremely anticipated Guthrie Theater.

As he wrote in American Theater journal 30 years later, his assessment of “Hamlet,” starring George Grizzard, was “a worthy sure,” which struck him as “sneaky however readable.”

Born and raised in Worcester, Mass., Sullivan coated music for the New York Occasions in addition to Off-Broadway, and, as his son stated, “he was a extremely expert pianist and a fast-paced, He was musically inclined.”

He labored on songs akin to “When Barbie Married G.I. Joe” and “Pizza Man – He Delivered” for Courageous New Workshop, a Minneapolis comedy troupe nonetheless in existence. And among the many folks he met by means of the congregation was Religion, his spouse of 57 years.

The identical yr Sullivan debuted within the Los Angeles Occasions, Los Angeles theater producer Ron Sosi based his Odyssey Theater Ensemble and praised Sullivan’s efforts to cowl the small theater.

“He discovered time to cowl a number of us,” Sosie stated, “and he was all the time prepared to speak and discuss theater.” He reached out to essentially perceive what we have been doing or attempting to do.”

Sullivan labored intently with Sylvie Drake, the paper’s second-string theater critic, who labored with him for practically 20 years.

“Dan was by nature a mentor and a beautiful individual,” stated Drake, who served because the newspaper’s chief theater critic for a few years.

Noting that Sullivan “left a path of mentors,” Drake clarified that she was one among them. “I had by no means labored in a newsroom earlier than, and within the first few months, he would write brief critiques of my column, and he was all the time useful. I might go to him with any issues.”

Sullivan was there to assist, whether or not it was synonyms or the act of reporting and writing. When he retired from The Occasions in 1991, for instance, he said that he deliberate to show artwork assessment and reporting on the College of Minnesota College of Journalism and Mass Communication and that along with his work on the Nationwide Critics Institute he One may even be an advisor to the Heart for Artwork Criticism in St. Paul.

In “Underneath the Copper Seashore: Conversations with American Theater Critics” revealed by the Basis of the American Theater Critics Assn., he instructed Drake, “The perfect factor that was stated about me as a critic was this: He aimed fulfilled.”

“I would not thoughts putting it on my tombstone—leaving it to the reader to resolve what the aim was.

“I knew it was a giant nation and I knew that theater was all over the place – and I did not suppose folks took that concept critically. It has been one of many themes of my life as a critic. Attempting to convey it to everybody’s consideration.

Sullivan’s household consists of his spouse, a author; and their three kids, Maggie, Ben and Kate.

Isenberg is a former workers author for the Occasions.

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