Monday, July 5, 2010

Black Theatre co-founder Stanley Williams dies

Black theater co-founder Stanley Williams dies

San Francisco Chronicle July 5, 2010 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stanley E. Williams founded the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco with his partner, who died nine weeks ago.

Stanley E. Williams, the founding artistic director of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, one of the most influential African American arts companies in California, died Friday. He was 60.

Mr. Williams, who was receiving treatment for cancer, died just nine weeks after his longtime partner, Quentin Easter, with whom he had run the company they founded in 1981.

Marc Paquette, a spokesman for the theater, said Mr. Williams died at his home in San Francisco.

"Stanley Williams was a big personality with a big heart," said Kary Schulman, director of the city's Grants for the Arts. "He devoted his life, both personal and professional, to the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, accomplishing things few thought possible when he and Quentin started the organization. For our community to lose Quentin and now Stanley in such a short time is a terrible blow."

The two men began the Lorraine Hansberry in a San Francisco storefront and in a short time had established it as the Bay Area's premier African American theater company. By 1988, it had created and moved into its own 300-seat theater on Sutter Street in the downtown theater district, and before long was recognized as one of the leading companies for black artists in the state.

Mr. Williams was a tireless and forceful advocate not only for his company but also for African American theater and artists in general. He was an early supporter of the playwright August Wilson; he directed and had a hand in producing most of the works in Wilson's milestone 10-play series of African American life, the Pittsburgh Cycle.

The Hansberry had experienced difficulties in recent years, though. It lost its theater in 2007, when the building was acquired by the Academy of Art University, and had been mounting reduced seasons in other venues. It had just negotiated a lease to take over the vacant, former Post Street Theatre, a 729-seat house, in February, shortly before both Mr. Williams and Easter became severely ill and had to cancel the lease.

Mr. Williams, who had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and was undergoing treatment, had appeared very frail when he spoke at the theater community's memorial celebration for Mr. Easter on June 14. Still, his sudden death came as a surprise to friends and colleagues, including Paquette, who had spoken with him a few hours before he died Friday evening.

Mr. Williams was raised in Connecticut and attended Goddard College in Vermont before moving to the Bay Area.

The Hansberry's small remaining staff and board will be meeting this week to make funeral arrangements and consider the future of the company.

E-mail Robert Hurwitt at

Marvin X on Stanley Williams

We mourn the passing of our comrade in the arts, Stanley Williams. Stanley directed a production of my play One Day in the Life. We enjoyed working with him and his partner/co-founder of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Quentin Easter, who made his transition a few weeks ago. Stanley and Quentin took Bay Area Black Drama to a higher level, especially after they established their home in San Francisco's downtown theatre district.

1 comment:

  1. I met the boys back in the mid 80s when I worked as Family Chuffaur for Mrs. Carole Shorenstien-Hays. The City has lost 3 great men in the last few months and well never see anyone quite like them again. I pulled out a couple of photos I took from the 1988 Gay Pride Parade of the two watching the Dykes on bikes pass-by when Quintain noticed me and Stanley Saluted me. I know Stanley loved Quintain and now thier together again. Rest in Peace, a long time friend and admirer JOSEPH RUAN