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Sun, 06.29.1919

Lloyd Richards, Media, and Stage Producer born

Lloyd Richards

Lloyd Richards was born on this date in 1919. He was a Black film, theater, and video director.

Lloyd George Richards was born in Toronto, Canada, but at an early age, his family moved to Detroit, Michigan.  Richards was only nine when his father died, leaving his mother to raise five children during the Depression.  To make matters worse, soon after, his mother became blind.  At 13, he went to work to help support the struggling family.

Richards entered Wayne University in Detroit but enlisted to fight in World War II, where he served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943-44. On returning to school, Richards studied drama, learning all theater and radio production aspects.

After graduation, he started a theater group in Detroit with a handful of friends and classmates. Richards moved to New York City in 1947 to pursue an acting career and worked on Broadway in "Freight and The Egghead" and radio throughout the 1950s.  He also taught acting and directed off-Broadway.  In 1958, Richards impressed Broadway with his production of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun." This production began a new era in the representation of Blacks on the American stage.  In the 1960s, Richards directed the Broadway productions "The Long Dream," "The Moon Besieged," "I Had a Ball," and "The Yearling."

In 1966, Richards became head of the actor training program at New York University's School of the Arts. He was also a Professor of Theater and Cinema at Hunter College in New York City before he was tapped to become Dean of the Yale University School of Drama in 1979 and Artistic Director of the Yale Repertory Theater.  Richards has discovered and developed new plays and playwrights.  He was the Artistic Director of the National Playwrights' Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre Center.  He was a member of the Playwrights' selection committee of the Rockefeller Foundation and with the New American Plays program of the Ford Foundation.

In 1984, his search for a major new American playwright was fulfilled with the production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" by August Wilson and the successive installments of Wilson's multi-part chronicle of African American life.  These plays include "Fences," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "Two Trains Running," and "Seven Guitars." Richards' productions for television include segments of "Roots: The Next Generation," Bill Moyers' Journal, and "Robeson," a presentation on the life of actor and activist Paul Robeson.  He also dealt with Robeson's life and legacy in the 1977 theatrical production Paul Robeson.

Richards has received the Pioneer Award of AUDELCO, the Frederick Douglass Award, and, in 1993, was the National Medal of the Arts winner. He has also served as the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers president.  He retired in 1991 from the Yale University School of Drama, became Professor Emeritus at Yale University, and continued to teach, direct, and search for new plays and playwrights until his death on June 29, 2006, the same day as his birth.

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