Claudia Cassidy, dowager queen of American critics, died Sun., July 21, after a brief hospitalization. She was 96.
The most influential critic of theatre, dance, and music in Chicago's history, she had an international reputation for her elegant prose style and withering pungency. Her career as a print and broadcast critic spanned seven decades, from the early 1920s to 1983.
Born at the turn of the century in Shawneetown, Ill., she graduated from the University of Illinois in 1921, and began her career as a secretary at the long-defunct Chicago Journal. She soon began reviewing for the Journal and quickly established a reputation for wit, dedication, and extremely high standards. Her peak years were at the Chicago Tribune (1942-65), followed by 15 years (1968-1983) with a weekly half-hour program on radio station WFMT.
Unmerciful with mediocrity, Cassidy condemned many a national tour for its cutdown set, reduced orchestra, or second-rate star. But her enthusiasm also was great: Her apotheosis came in 1945 when she steadfastly refused to let the pre-Broadway "The Glass Menagerie" die the death of a January box office. Repeatedly praising its merits in her widely read column, she was credited by Tennessee Williams himself with saving the play and Williams' career.
Arguably the last of her era, Cassidy viewed her first theatre on showboats stopping at Shawneetown on the Ohio River, saw Pavlova dance, heard Rachmaninov concertize, and Mary Garden sing, and came of age during the "Front Page" era of Chicago journalism.
Her husband of 57 years died in 1986. There are no survivors.
Chris Komar, assistant artistic director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and a leading Cunningham dancer, died at Beth Israel Hospital on Wed., July 17, of AIDS. He was 48.
Born in Milwaukee, he trained in dance at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee. He was a founding member of the Milwaukee Ballet Company. Komar joined the Cunningham troupe in 1972 and went on to create roles in more than 45 dances by Cunningham.
Komar began teaching in 1973 and was Cunningham's assistant. He staged Cunningham dances for companies throughout the world. He received a Bessie Award for service to dance in 1991 and retired from the stage in 1993.
He is survived by his mother, two sisters, and three brothers.
July 29 for
An evening of words and song celebrating the life and work of casting director Barbara Hipkiss will be held Mon., July 29, at the Pearl Theatre, 80 St. Marks Place. Hipkiss died from cardiac arrest on Sun., May 19.
The program will begin at 6 pm with light refreshments to follow. A vital part of the evening will be the sharing of anecdotes and memories. Anyone wanting to participate, please write down your thoughts on one double-spaced typed page and fax it to Rich Cole, (212) 947-0821. He will organize the information for public reading by two actors at the celebration.
Hipkiss' New York credits included the 1994 Circle In The Square revival of "The Shadow Box," the WPA Theatre, and several shows for the Pearl Theatre Company. She cast hundreds of productions for many major regional theatres, and also worked on the 1995 feature film "Die Hard with a Vengeance."
She began her career with McCorkle Casting, later working for Binder Casting, then as an independent before entering into partnership with Rich Cole last O