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IRA CIRKER

CIRKER--IRA, Esteemed Director-Producer of theatre and television passes at 86. Although Ira Cirker's directorial opus spanned from Shakespeare to soap operas to Stein, a constant in his eclectic career was his love of actors and the process of acting. Emmy Award-winning actress Linda Dano wrote: "An exceptionally talented director, Ira Cirker understood the delicate balance between quality work, delicate guidance and friendship." His introduction to the world of theatre was as the youngest cast member of Moss Hart's "Winged Victory", a hit Broadway stage production during WWII. He also appeared in the Darryl Zanuck produced and George Cukor directed film. He began his directorial career as co-director with Oscar Homolka of Ibsen's The Master Builder and was assistant director to Burgess Meredith for the Actors Studio production on Broadway of James Baldwin's Blues for Mr. Charlie. He also assisted Jean Renoir for the film Elena et Les Hommes with Ingrid Bergman. A pioneer in the early days of live television, Ira Cirker directed shows such as Robert Montgomery Presents, Search for Tomorrow, Nash Airflyte Theatre, and Valiant Lady, and recounted the days when dream sequences were signaled by filming colored water stirred in a pail. For 17 years, Ira Cirker was the director of NBC's Another World and he became the first person in daytime television to direct the hour and 90 minute formats. In his tenure at Another World he was nominated for six Emmy awards and directed actors such as Linda Dano, Brad Davis, Morgan Freeman, Constance Ford, Ray Liotta, Anne Meacham, Douglas Watson, and Victoria Wyndham. He instituted a training program for directors in television and Melvin Bernhardt, Jack Hofsiss, Barnet Kellman, Jeff Bleckner, and Casey Childs all were under his tutelage. In Los Angeles in the 1960's he directed the controversial one acts by LeRoi Jones, Dutchman and The Toilet, and was the executive director of Theatre in the Parks where he directed an interracial version of Anthony and Cleopatra starring Diana Sands and Robert Lansing. In the aftermath of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, he and William DuBois established the Watts Training Center, educating young people for careers in television, theatre and film. In 1961, Ira Cirker directed the telecast of John Kennedy's Inaugural Gala in Washington, DC that featured Frank Sinatra as master of ceremonies, and in 1962 assisted in the production of the Kennedy birthday party that featured Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday. Off-Broadway, he directed Take A Giant Step by Lou Petersen with Louis Gossett, Jr., A Mighty Man is He with Claudette Colbert, Clerembard with Tammy Grimes and Claude Dauphin, A Whisper in God's Ear with Alan Alda, Naomi Court by Michael Sawyer with Brad Davis, My Prince My King by Victor Wolfson in association with Lee Strasberg at The Actor's Studio, and Gertrude Stein and a Companionby Win Wells with Jan Miner and Marian Seldes, produced by Lucille Lortel. In 1986, Ira Cirker's company, Mitchon Productions, in association with Leonard Herbst and Tapestry Productions, produced Gertrude Stein and a Companion with Jan Miner and Marian Seldes for the Bravo network garnering an Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment Programming, a Silver Hugo Award and an American Video Award for Drama. In 1993, Ira Cirker was inducted into the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences' Silver Circle. Mr. Cirker was a founding member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of the Directors Guild of America. He is survived by his business partner and companion Leonard Herbst, former wife Lenore DeKoven and their two sons, Mitchell and Jason, his grandchildren Marlon and Mia, and their mother, Christine. A memorial has been planned for April 15th.


Published in The New York Times on Feb. 11, 2010
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