University of California: In Memoriam, 1986

Alan L. Schneider, Drama: San Diego


Alan Schneider was born in southern Russia in 1917 and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1921. He began his theatrical career as an instructor in the Drama Department at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1941, and was connected with an educational institution almost constantly throughout the remainder of his career. He taught at Catholic University until 1952 while establishing his reputation in the professional theatre at the Arena Stage in Washington, where he was artistic director in 1952-53.

Alan Schneider directed his first Broadway show, The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, but continued to guest direct at academic institutions. He was professor of theatre arts at Boston University from 1972 to 1979, and director of the Juilliard Theatre Center from 1975 to 1979. In 1979, Professor Schneider joined the faculty of the Drama Department at UCSD where he held the Quinn Martin Chair in Drama.

Professor Schneider was a man for all theatres. He directed on and off Broadway, and even off-off Broadway. He directed at regional theatres throughout the United States, as well as at innumerable universities and colleges. Internationally, he directed Samuel Beckett's Rockabye at the National Theatre of Great Britain in 1982, and in 1973, his productions of The Skin of Our Teeth and The Matchmaker were invited to tour the Soviet Union, the first American theatre company to perform in that country since the Russian Revolution.

Alan Schneider was the principal director of the plays of Edward Albee, Robert Anderson and Samuel Beckett. In 1960, Alan directed a production of Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape in New York on a double bill with Albee's Zoo Story, which was staged by another director. Albee so admired Alan's work on the Beckett play that he invited him to direct the world premiere of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway. In subsequent years, Alan directed the world premieres of Albee's Tiny Alice, Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Delicate Balance (which won the Pulitzer Prize), Box and Quotations from

Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. Alan won the coveted Tony Award in 1963 as best director of a Broadway show for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and an Obie award for best director of an off-Broadway show, Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, a feat indicative of his commitment to theatre in all places.

Schneider was probably best known as an interpreter of the plays of Samuel Beckett and as the man who brought Beckett and his startling plays to the American theatre. Beginning with the American premiere production of Waiting for Godot in 1958, Schneider directed American premieres of Endgame, Krapp's Last Tape, Act Without Words II, Play, Act Without Words I, That Time and Pitfalls, and the world premieres of Not I, Happy Days, Film, Rockabye, and Ohio Impromptu. Alan was regarded throughout the world as Beckett's favorite director and most sensitive interpreter.

In addition to the world premiere productions of plays by Albee and Beckett, Professor Schneider also directed the world premieres of Robert Anderson's All Summer Long, You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, and I Never Sang for My Father, Tennessee Williams' The Mutilated and Gnädiges Fräulein, and the American premieres of Harold Pinter's The Dumbwaiter, The Collection, The Lover and The Birthday Party. These playwrights chose Schneider to direct their plays because they knew he would be true to their texts, since he paid meticulous attention to the desires of the playwrights, and would demand the same attention from the actors in the productions.

While a member of the faculty at UCSD, Alan Schneider continued his professional directing career with a vengeance. He directed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, was an artistic director of the Acting Company, and continued to work in New York. He headed professional organizations such as the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and the Theatre Communications Group. At the time of his death in London, Schneider was directing a new play by a young American playwright at the Hamstead Theatre Club, carrying on his long commitment to the training and supporting of promising theatre artists.

Alan's contributions to the Drama Department at UCSD were inestimable. A genuine teacher as well as artist, he brought 40 years of expertise in the theatre to all drama students, especially to the graduate directing students with whom he spent most of his time. Fidelity to the text was the foundation of Alan's teaching, and in his weekly seminar with the graduate students, their conversation would center on that question. Not that he was dogmatic about the way in which a given play should be presented, just so long as the intentions of the playwright and the text were foremost in the director's attention. Those weekly seminars, held in his cubbyhole-like office, were the centerpiece of his pedagogical approach, but he also spent a good deal of time observing and criticizing the practical work of the directors in the

program, either in studio or full-fledged productions. It was his meticulous attention and support that prompted his students to think of him as a true mentor.

Alan Schneider brought to his UCSD students all the insights of his 40 years in the professional theatre, determination in the pursuit of excellence, and a deep all-encompassing love for the art of the theatre. Professor Schneider is survived by his wife Jean, and his children, Vicki and David.

Michael C. Addison Paul D. Saltman Arthur Wagner

About this text
Courtesy of University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Title: 1986, University of California: In Memoriam
By:  University of California (System) Academic Senate, Author
Date: 1986
Contributing Institution:  University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
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