Gerald Weales, 1925-2013
Gerald Weales, a sagacious scholar of theater and a lively, judicious critic, passed away Aug. 30, age 88. He served with distinction in World War II, earned a Ph.D. at Columbia, taught for some 30 years at the University of Pennsylvania, was critic for 25 years for Commonweal and wrote the much admired annual “American Theater Watch” in the Georgia Review from 1978 to 2010. He won the George Jean Nathan Award in 1966 and was a founding (and loyal) member of ATCA. See the Georgia Review for a feeling In Memoriam.
For comments on Gerald by a few ATCA friends …
Gerald Weales was a genial man and a fine critic who had a fine career. Such a career — as simultaneously an academic and a journalist — is hardly possible for those starting out in the twenty-first century. — Julius Novick
Very sad to hear about Gerald. Certainly he was a distinguished critic, an able writer and first-rate thinker. But what I will remember about him was his broad smile and beguiling sense of humor. A good-natured academic is truly a find. What popped into my head was having a drink with him after a press preview of “Evita” back in (gulp) 1979. His comments on the show were delightful and insightful. RIP, Gerald. – Bill Gale
He was at the convention in Stratford when I last saw him. A sweet, thoughtful man and delightful as a swapper of stories. Very underrated as a critic, I would say. Certainly more approachable than the majority of the academic critics. Wrote an excellent sum-up book in 1969, “The Jumping-Off Place.” – Welton Jones
And Jay Handelman sends excerpts from a few of Gerald’s own messages, giving a sense of his good spirits:
May 7, 2013
I doubt that I will be able to come to the Festival [CATF] since I am getting so old and decrepit that I have trouble traveling. But I would like to see the information, which I have not received. I will consider it and see if I think it possible to animate these old bones enough to make it to West Virginia.
March 19, 2013
I am far too ancient and infirm to join the celebrating critics in Indianapolis this week or the Humana Festival later. The social column in the CONNERSVILLE NEWS EXAMINER, my hometown paper, used to have an often repeated sentence in describing festive events, “Those who couldn’t come but sent gifts were …” I will borrow from the paper and say in regard to the upcoming gatherings, “Those would couldn’t come but sent best wishes to all” included … Gerald Weales
I assume that you will let me know if anything propitious occurred at either meeting. Best to the ambulatory. GW
Aug. 13, 2012
Thanks for sending the news of ATCA. Even though I am a superannuated critic—still writing but not regularly—I like to hear what is going on in the old neighborhood.
I found Lou Harry’s promise of doings in Indianapolis intriguing. Instead of his choice of opening names, I might have said that Central Indiana had given the world Booth Tarkington and Carol Lombard and ME, but the idea of Indianapolis as theater town is comforting, but hardly surprising. Since I grew up in Connersville, a short drive from Indianapolis, the big city was where I got my initiation into professional theater (give or take traveling troupes like that of B. Iden Payne, who brought Shakespeare to high schools). Thanks to the organizational skills of my older sister, I started going to plays in Indianapolis when I was still in my early teens. The offerings were first rate then, thanks to traveling companies. They ranged from classy shows like Katharine Hepburn in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY with Joseph Cotten and Van Heflin as the two men who would be played by Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in the later movie version to classic knockabout—Olsen and Johnson in HELLZAPOPPIN! (incidentally, Ole Olsen was also an Indiana boy). In between, there were impressive shows like ARSENIC AND OLD LACE with Erich von Stroheim in the Boris Karloff role and the two lethal sisters played by Effie Shannon and Laura Hope Crews (whom you may remember as Aunt Pittypat in GONE WITH THE WIND).
For old times sake, I would like to drag my decaying body to Indianapolis for the event, but, alas, at 87, my traveling days seem to be over. I don’t even get into New York, where there are shows I would like to see. So you might send me another note, telling me how it all went. I am not sure what the Cultural Trail is, but I assume that the art museum is on it. If you haven’t visited it, do so. It was an impressive collection when last I saw it—years ago now—and I understand that much has been added to it since then.