Tuesday, March 2, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 104

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About the Cougar

Jose Quintero leaves stage memorabilia to UH

Former UH theater prof remembered by friends and former students

William Cordray
Daily Cougar Staff

Panamanian theater director and former UH professor, Jose Quintero died Feb. 26 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, N.Y. Robert Lantz, his agent, told the public that Quintero died from a long bout with cancer. He was 74.

Sidney Berger, director of theater and former student of Quintero, had been a personal friend since his career beginnings in New York.

When asked what Quintero taught his students about directing, Berger said that "What he did was not really teach theater techniques, but rather how to have the passion and love for the theater. And he always taught how to be truthful and honest to the play itself."

UH theater professor Carolyn Boone, who was also one of Quintero's student, upon his arrival to UH, had quoted Quintero during an initial class with him and was inspired with his words. "Theater," as Quintero defined "is a platform whereby you may speak to God."

Boone further added that "Jose Quintero was a cathedral. He had every piece of colored glass that is yet to be known to man in his soul. His inner spirit was so bright that he illuminated everyone with his knowledge. And he was so willing to spill over his knowledge and wisdom to anyone who was interested in the theater."

Quintero was the sole factor in creating an American Renaissance of Off-Broadway productions during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1950, Quintero along with Ted Mann and his partners, created a troupe of actors who called themselves The Loft Players.

They produced a number of plays in Woodstock, N.Y and returned a year later to New York City to open a theater called Circle in the Square in Greenwich Village.

In 1952, Quintero and Mann decided to reproduce Tennessee William's "Summer and Smoke" which was ravely reviewed by the New York Times and inspired a theatrical explosion in Off-Broadway performances in New York City. A year later, Quintero began producing on Broadway, while maintaining a close relationship with the Circle in The Square throughout his career.

Over the years as a director, Quintero developed a special fondness for Eugene O'Neill, the only American playwright to win a Nobel Prize. After his production of O'Neill's play, "The Iceman Cometh" in 1956, O'Neill's popularity soared. Previously, the critics had offered rather dismal reviews for his later works, written just before his death in 1953.

Quintero directed 19 of O'Neill's plays between 1956 and 1996, and several from Tennessee Williams and Thorton Wilder with whom he maintained personal relationships.

Throughout the years, however, Quintero battled the success and failures with the theater through alcohol addiction. Nicholas Tsacrios, his lifelong comrade, helped him deal with that problem in the mid '70s.

In 1987, Quintero believed his directing career was over after a diagnosis of throat cancer and the removal of his vocal cords. Having learned to use a mechanical voice box, he returned to the theater one year later and began a career as a college professor at the University of Houston and Florida State University.

In March 1998, UH librarian Susan Boseman took on a huge request from Quintero. He wanted all of his memorabilia and writings to be donated to UH.

When the request was made, Boseman flew out to Sarasota, Fla., where Quintero resided and visited with him. She commented, "(Quintero) was a very warm, caring individual who I will miss very much. He took an active interest in making sure his materials were available for students and scholars, and I feel extremely privileged that this collection is here."

The approximate number of documents and materials in Quintero's estate is not known. It may contain anything from his Tony Awards to his signed playbills and hand-written letters to playwrights.

Boseman, who is in charge of the Quintero archives, has plans to create a Quintero exhibit for the next Fall semester, in the M.D. Anderson Library. The exhibit will concentrate on the life and works of Jose Quintero.

However, Berger believes the real legacy of Jose Quintero is in the students and actors with whom he has worked over the years.

Berger said "He was training the future and, through his students, hopefully he will have enlightened the American theater for generations to come."

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