Louis Lippa

January 11, 1928 – September 5, 2018

“Old Men ought to be explorers, here and there does not matter. We must be still and still moving into another intensity, for a further union, a deeper communion…..”

T.S. Eliot

These were favorite lines of Lou’s, a man who was always looking for a deeper communion in all that he did. Lou had a long association with the Hedgerow Theatre, various successes in New York, and in the mid 70’s became a core member of the People’s Light Resident Ensemble. An accomplished director, actor, and teacher; he was happiest as playwright. For many years he was our playwright in residence.

Lou’s plays were produced here as well as Off-Broadway and at regional and community theatres throughout the country. Playwriting awards included an off-Broadway OBIE; fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; the Dramatic Publishing Company’s National Award for The Stone House; the Roger L. Stevens Award; and the Kennedy Center’s New Play Award for his play Sign of the Lizard, concerning the murder of the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. His two-part six-hour adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie, produced by People’s Light, received critical acclaim from Philadelphia, Washington and London critics. His play Sacco and Vanzetti: A Vaudeville received productions at People’s Light, City Theatre of Pittsburgh, the Marin Theatre Company of San Francisco, and the Gorilla Theatre of Tampa Bay. In 2007 we produced his adaptation of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author which The Wall Street Journal called, “A solid gold hit!” He received the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Born in Rochester, NY and raised in South Philly, Lou discovered theatre as an undergraduate at Temple University where he later received a master’s degree. In 1951, fresh out of college, he became a member of the original Hedgerow Repertory Theatre where he was encouraged to write. In 1955 he went to New York for six years. Despite critical successes with three off-Broadway productions of his plays he felt that life as a theatre artist in NY had no “group continuity—without a resident artistic company, individual productions lacked ensemble integrity.” From 1961 until 1974 he was Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Playhouse and then the Theatre of Western Springs Illinois where he developed his skills as a director and defined his ideas of theatre as a meaningful community experience. Thereafter, People’s Light became his artistic home.

Lou liked nothing better than a good debate. His subject matter was wide ranging: Aristotle, Brecht, Marxism, marinara sauce, and the Phillies. His zest for passionate engagement was legendary, his belief in the power of theatre to change hearts and minds unquenchable. His final acting role was at People’s Light in 2011; Knut Brovik in The Master Builder directed by his long-time friend and artistic partner Ken Marini, a founding member of People’s Light. This from Kenny: “I had the pleasure of collaborating with Lou on many of his scripts. I was trying to get him to do an adaptation of Jack London’s The Iron Heel. I guess I’ll just have to wait. Thank you Lou for your talent, for allowing me the opportunity to direct your plays, for your theatrical flair and……are you looking at me, Lou? With respect and love. “

Lou's beloved wife Nancy predeceased him. He is survived by his son Christopher, his daughter Anita, his granddaughter Madeline, and grandson Simon. Donations can be made to The Actors Fund. A celebration of Lou’s life will be held at People’s Light later in the fall.

Lou was always an intrepid explorer; may he now know that deeper communion.