Herbert Blau

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Herbert Blau
Herbert Blau
Herbert Blau, 2002
Born (1926-05-03)3 May 1926
Brooklyn, New York
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Seattle, Washington
Education B.Ch.E., New York University (Chemical Engineering), 1947
M.A., Stanford University (Drama), 1949
Ph.D., Stanford University (English & American Literature), 1954
Notable works The Impossible Theater, a Manifesto (1964) / Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point (1982) / Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theatre (1982) / The Eye of Prey: Subversions of the Postmodern (1987) / The Audience (1990) / To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance (1992) / Nothing in Itself: Complexions of Fashion (1999) / Sails of the Herring Fleet: Essays on Beckett (2000) / The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000 (2002)

A director and theoretician of performance, Herbert Blau (3 May 1926 – 3 May 2013) was Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities at the University of Washington.

Early life and career

Blau earned his B.Ch.E., Chemical Engineering from New York University (1947). Later, his M.A. in Drama (1949), and Ph.D.,English & American Literature (1954), both from Stanford University.

As co-founder (with Jules Irving)[1] of The Actor's Workshop[2] in San Francisco (1952–1965) and co-director of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center in New York City (1965–67), Blau introduced American audiences to avant-garde drama in some of the country's first productions of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter including the 1957 performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot at California's San Quentin State Prison.[3] This was the Godot that during the second red scare, after extra-legal State Department maneuvers denied travel permission for unstated political reasons to a member of the company, represented American theater at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.[4] In 1968, Blau signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[5]

In 1971, after three years as a dean and provost at the newly formed California Institute of the Arts, Blau formed the experimental group KRAKEN, where he continued presenting challenging productions for another decade. The two books that emerged from that work—Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point (University of Illinois Press, 1982) and Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theater (Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982)—received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.[6] In addition to the theater, Blau has taken up the subjects of literature, visual arts, fashion, postmodern culture and politics.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) conferred an honorary Doctor of Arts degree to Blau in May 2008.[7]

Personal life

Blau was born in Brooklyn. He married actress Beatrice Manley in 1949[8] and they divorced in 1980.[9] They had three children: film professor Dick Blau, Tara Gwyneth Blau, and Dr. Jonathan Blau. Blau married a second time to Kathleen Woodward and they had one daughter, Jessamyn Blau.


Blau died on his 87th birthday May 3, 2013, in Seattle, Washington from a sarcomatoid carcinoma of the chest. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Woodward; three children from his first marriage, Dick Blau, Tara Gwyneth Blau and Jonathan Blau; a daughter from his second marriage, Jessamyn Blau; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.[10]



  1. Internet Broadway Database. Jules Irving. Accessed 19 January 2010.
  2. The Actor's Workshop. The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Accessed 27 December 2008.
  3. Berton, Justin. When 'Waiting for Godot' played San Quentin. San Francisco Chronicle, December 23, 2008. Accessed 19 January 2010.
  4. Atkinson, Brooks, N.Y. Times, "Theatre: 'Godot' for Fair; Coast Troupe Here on Way to Brussels," August 06, 1958
  5. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  6. George Jean Nathan Award Committee's Citation. Accessed 27 December 2008.
  7. Nelson, Denise. Harry Belafonte, Herbert Blau and Terry Riley Receive Honorary Doctor of Arts Degrees. Accessed 27 December 2008.
  8. Herbert Blau, As If: An Autobiography, Volume 1 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011), 108.
  9. Beatrice Manley Biography, accessed 23 October 2012.
  10. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links