Joel Friedman, stage director, actor, dies at 91

Also wrote plays, academic papers on theater

Joel Friedman, a stage helmer and actor who was the founding director of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival, died on Sept. 29. He was 91.

Friedman directed an acclaimed production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Central Park and was Angela Lansbury’s advance director for her first tour in “Affairs of State.” He helmed Honegger’s “St. Joan at the Stake” for Leonard Bernstein at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic and Monteverdi’s “The Return of Ulysses” for the Baroness de Rothschild Foundation.

Friedman did a great deal of acting work in his later years, most recently playing Milton Saltzman in “The Soap Myth” at South Street Seaport Theater in his native New York City. Other recent roles include the Minister in “His Girl Friday” and Nonno in “The Night of the Iguana,” both at the Guthrie in Minneapolis; Mr. Solomon in Arthur Miller’s “The Price” at the Delaware Theater Company; Adam in “As You Like It” at Boston’s Huntington Theater and the Pittsburgh Public Theater; and the title role in “King Lear” at New York’s American Globe Theater.

He also wrote stageplays, seven of which were collected in “The Skinwearers and Other Plays.” In addition he penned several papers on Greek drama and theater published in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

Friedman was also a teacher. After spending the 1970s at Temple U., he became head of the acting program at the U. of Akron in Ohio.

He is survived by his wife, Broadway actress Sylvia Gassel.

A memorial service for Friedman will be held at the Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park South, New York City, on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. Email for more information.

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