By MARK KENNEDY
AP Drama Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Lanford Wilson, the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright of such plays as “The Hot L Baltimore,” “Burn This,” “Fifth of July” and “Talley’s Folly,” has died. He was 73.
The Steppenwolf Theatre said Thursday that Wilson died Wednesday at a long term acute care facility in Wayne, N.J. The playwright, who had been a longtime resident of New York’s Sag Harbor, died on the eve of the Chicago company’s first preview production of a staging of his “Hot L Baltimore.”
“His tremendous spirit is with us in the theater and tonight’s show will be in his memory and honor,” Tina Landau, the director of the production, said Thursday.
Wilson was one of four founders of The Circle Repertory Company in New York, an incubator of important off-Broadway works. He was nominated for Tony Awards for “Angels Fall” “Talley’s Folly” and “Fifth of July.”
He won the Pulitzer for drama in 1980 for “Talley’s Folly,” the second in a trilogy of plays that follows the Talley family of Lebanon, Mo., over several generations. Wilson himself was born in Lebanon, Mo.
In 1994, he received the first Last Frontier Play Writing Award at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, a prize subsequently given to Arthur Miller, Terrence McNally and August Wilson.
Notoriously terrified of flying, Wilson arrived at Anchorage International Airport under the influence of powerful tranquilizers and in a jovial mood. He wanted to taste Alaska king crab and take a look at the mosaic depiction of an owl above the 7th Avenue entry at the Anchorage Museum. The artist, he said, had just purchased a bungalow on the street where Wilson lived and had announced that he had plans for transforming it. Wilson was eager to get an idea of the artist’s work.
When he saw the owl, his mouth fell open. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “I weep for that poor little bungalow.”
Before that single trip to Alaska for the 1994 conference, he wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Daily News defending Out North Theater. The envelope-pushing local company was under fire for producing his “Hot L Baltimore,” a play that included open homosexual characters.
“Lanford was a singular voice in the American theatre—an important artist, a gentle soul and a good friend,” said Steppenwolf co-Founder Terry Kinney. “We will miss him sorely.”
Daily News arts editor Mike Dunham contributed to this story.