Celia Silverman

Actress, cofounder of Philadelphia's Theater of the Living Arts

Celia Silverman, actress and cofounder of the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia, died of heart failure April 30. She was 90.

Monaca, Pa. native attended Marjorie Webster College in Silver Spring, Md., and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1933. During the 1930s, Mrs. Silverman produced and performed a radio show for children in Atlantic City.

She moved to Elkins Park, Pa. in 1949 and served as the president of the Cheltenham Art Center in the 1950s. She studied acting with Jasper Deeter, the founder of Philadelphia’s Hedgerow Theatre. But that ensemble closed its doors in 1956, leaving a void in the local theater scene. Silverman, her husband Louis Silverman and a group of friends answered by founding the Theater of the Living Arts in the early 1960s.

The Theater of the Living Arts was a key to the revival of Philadelphia’s South Street area. The theater’s acting ensemble, which called itself The Southwark Company, included Ron Liebman, Sally Kirkland, Jerome Dempsey, Lois Smith, M. Emmet Walsh and others. The company disbanded in 1971.

Celia Silverman was predeceased by her husband in 1992. She is survived by a son, Leon; daughter-in-law Jan Silverman, a longtime stage director and acting teacher at Temple University; daughter Caroljean Kier; and three grandchildren.

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