Tuesday, March 1, 2011

O'Neill Center Mourns Loss of Max Wilk

Max Wilk, author, playwright, film and television writer, and long time dramaturg for the National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill THeater Center in Waterford passed away at the age of 90 on Feb,19 at his home in Westport. HIs work with the National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill Center spanned nearly three decades.

While at the O’Neill, Wilk helped both emerging and established playwrights refine their plays, working with some of modern theater’s top luminaries including: Pulitzer Prize winners August Wilson and John Patrick Shanley; Lee Blessing; OyamO; James Yoshimura; Jeffrey Hatcher; Wendy McLeod; Doug Wright; Willy Holtzman; Judy GeBauer; Charles Shulman; Sam Hunter; Ursula Rani Sarma; and Lucy Caldwell.

Amy Saltz, a frequent director for the conference said, “Max loved the O'Neill and he loved show business. He was smart and sassy and blunt. He had great knowledge and experience, both of which he was anxious to share,” she continued “I was at the O'Neill for 17 summers and he was there every year and long after, helping writers, offering support, and demanding the best of everyone. He made an indelible impression and will be missed.”

Preston Whiteway, executive director, said “Max will remain a legend at the O’Neill always. His intelligence, wit, and friendship shaped the O’Neill and the National Playwrights Conference for decades, impacting hundreds of playwrights and the American theater itself. I will miss Max holding court on the porch, and his insights, which were invariably correct.”

Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg added, “Max's contribution to the National Playwrights Conference is immeasurable. He was a true fixture in our community. He lent his dramaturgical gifts to countless plays, supporting many of our country's finest playwrights with great intelligence and great humor. He will be profoundly missed.”

Wilk graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1941. He toured with Irving Berlin’s This is the Army and wrote training films in the First Motion Picture Unit AAF. After the war, Wilk continued his impressive career as playwright, scriptwriter, and television scriptwriter writing for all types of media. He was author of three Broadway shows, Small Wonder in 1948-49, Cloud 7 in 1958, and A Musical Jubilee in 1975-76. He also the author of Mr. Williams and Ms. Wood which he adapted for the stage from his book “Represented by Audrey Wood” which he co-wrote with Wood. Additionally, he authored the book for "The Yellow Submarine," which featured The Beatles, as well as "They're Playing Our Song: The Truth Behind the Words and Music of Three Generations," "OK! The Story Of Oklahoma!: A Celebration of America's Most Beloved Musical" and "The Golden Age of Television: Notes from the Survivors" among many others.

Wilk won Emmy and Peabody awards for his two-hour television show "The Fabulous Fifties." Overall, he was the author of 19 books, four films, three produced plays and countless television shows and magazine articles.

A memorial service to celebrate Wilk's life is being planned by the family in Westport for April and the O’Neill is planning a gathering during its 2011 summer season. More details will follow.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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