Elizabeth McCormick, a pioneer of Off Broadway theater and a writer, director and producer, died Aug. 15 in New York after a long illness. She was 89.
Born in Cleveland, McCormick’s interest in theater began while attending Vassar College, where she met Hallie Flanagan, director of the Federal Theatre Project. After graduating in 1931, McCormick spent the next several years directing and writing for numerous regional, summer and winter stock theater projects in Connecticut, New York and Virginia.
In 1933 and 1934, McCormick wrote two plays (“Valentine and the Gargoyle” and “The Dragon Who Giggled”) which were published by Samuel French. The plays won the Junior League Playwriting prize and led McCormick to co-produce a series of six American plays for New York’s On Stage productions in 1948. The plays, which included “Billy the Kid” and “The Contrast,” were praised by critics and established McCormick as a theater director. During a time when there were few women directors, McCormick’s accomplishment gave her a reputation as being “fierce” yet “endearing” from colleagues such as writer Harding Lemay.
McCormick’s success as a director provided her the courage to establish a professional repertory theater company in Manhattan which could produce plays at more reasonable prices. This became one of the first efforts to establish Off Broadway theater. McCormick first chose the Central Opera House as a venue; however, due to the lack of interest from investors and the public, the theater failed.
In 1971, McCormick retired from theater, but spent her time fostering interest in theater to the nation’s youth.
McCormick has no immediate survivors.