Robert Weeks Barron, 78, Weist-Barron Co-Founder
Robert Weeks Barron, co-founder of the Weist-Barron School, the first professional school dedicated to acting for film and television, died of heart disease on May 28 at New York's Lennox Hill Hospital. He was 78 years old.
Along with radio and TV announcer Dwight Weist (who passed away in 1991), Barron founded Weist-Barron in 1956 and did not retire until the late '80s. Earlier, he worked as an actor on Broadway with Frederic March in "The American Way" (1939) and with Paul Lukas in "Watch on the Rhine" (1941). Barron was also a frequent radio performer and a regular on such shows as CBS's "Let's Pretend" and "Cavalcade of America."
Following his service in World War II, Barron launched his career in production for various film companies, leading to six years as a writer/director and senior group producer at N.W. Ayer Advertising Agency. He later managed the audio visual department of H.G. Peters and Company in Philadelphia.
He worked for extended periods as assistant director of public relations in charge of radio, television, and film production for the American Bankers Association and he occasionally freelanced as a film and speech writer in the commercial film and business area.
During his career, Barron received more than 14 awards for his writing and direction of industrial films and programs featuring such notables as Shari Lewis, Frederic March, Eddie Bracken, and Betty Furness. Barron was also a member of the Directors Guild of America.
A New York City native and the son of show people, Barron earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. For eight years, he served as pastor of Parkville Congregational Church in New York.
Barron is survived by his wife, Joyce McCord Barron (a former pupil), and their two daughters, Allison and Dana Barron.
A celebration of Barron's life is planned for Sun., June 9, at 6 pm at the school (35 W. 45th St.). All students and faculty (old and new) are invited to attend and share their stories and memories.
Josephine Abady, 52, Artistic Director
Josephine R. Abady, former artistic director of The Cleveland Play House and Circle in the Square in NYC, died of breast cancer on Sat., May 25 in her Manhattan home. She was 52.
Abady, who was perhaps best known for her Broadway revival of "Born Yesterday" starring Madeline Kahn and Ed Asner, launched her career as artistic director at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., in 1979.
Her production of "The Boys Next Door," initially mounted at the festival, moved to Off-Broadway in 1987, for which she was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. She stayed with the festival until 1988, when she became artistic director of The Cleveland Play House and remained there until 1994.
Abady was invited by Circle in the Square, a Broadway theatre company, to come on board as its artistic director in 1994. The theatre had been dark for two years prior to that time. Under her tenure, the theatre mounted a hit revival of "Bus Stop," which she directed. Abady was nominated as a producer for the Tony Award for her production of "Rose Tattoo." Still, the theatre had difficulties.
The theatre broke Abady's five-and-a-half year contract in 1996 and the four-play season she had planned for the 1996-1997 season was cancelled. She sued the board members for, among other things, breach of contract.
Her final production was Charles Busch's "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," at Florida's Asolo Theatre, affiliated with Florida State University, where Abady earned her MFA.
A memorial is planned for Aug. 21 in NYC.
Zypora Spaisman, Yiddish Theatre Actress
Zypora Spaisman, a Yiddish-speaking actress best known as the long-time executive producer of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, died May 19 at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. She was believed to be in her late '80s. The cause of death was a stroke.
Spaisman's final years were difficult, following her forced retirement from the Folksbienne, where she had served for 40 years as an actress and later as its producer. In 1998 the board of the Folksbienne decided to modernize both the programming and marketing strategies. Spaisman wanted to maintain the theatre's traditions of mounting Yiddish classics. The new board hoped to stage new works to attract younger audiences.
A Lublin, Poland native, Spaisman played many roles in Yiddish theatre, and in 1989 appeared in Paul Mazurksy's film, "Enemies, A Love Story," based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer novel. She also had a role in "The Hard Way," starring Michael J. Fox.
Spaisman earned the Obie and Drama Desk Award for her performance as the mother in "Stempenyu," by Sholom Aleichem.
Suzi Bass, 55, Actress and Activist for Actors
Suzi Bass, a well-respected leading and character actress, died May 17 in Atlanta, Ga. She was 55. The cause of death was cancer.
Among her notable films were "My Cousin Vinny" and "Fried Green Tomatoes." Her television credits include Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" and Alex Haley's "Queen." She appeared in many regional theatres across the country in such plays as "Beauty Queen of Leenane" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
She was an activist on behalf of Equity, SAG, and AFTRA.
Bass will soon be seen in the upcoming feature "Sweet Home Alabama."