Jack Gelber, whose early play ”The Connection” won three Obies, died Friday May 9 of a form of blood cancer. He was 71.
Gelber wrote a dozen other plays, worked as a theater director and taught young playwrights, actors and directors, but he is best known for ”The Connection,” written when he was 26, and which examined the life of drug addicts. It ran 722 perfs, became the signature piece of the Living Theater and included an uncredited Martin Sheen in a small but key role. In 1962, it was turned into a cutting-edge film by Shirley Clarke, with Gelber as scripter.
Other plays he wrote include “The Apple,” “Square in the Eye,” “The Cuban Thing” (which he also directed on Broadway), “Sleep,” “Barbary Shore” “Rehearsal” and “Dylan’s Line.”
Plays he directed include “The Kitchen,” “The Kid,” “Seduced” by Sam Shepard and “Farmyard.” His novel “On Ice” was published in 1964.
He taught at Columbia U., Brooklyn College and the New School U., even up to the evening before he died.
Chi native graduated from the U. of Illinois and moved to New York in the mid-1950s, where he basically remained, except for a time in Haiti.
Survivors include wife Carol, a son, a daughter and two brothers.