SARATOGA SPRINGS - Alma Becker, nationally recognized theater director, beloved wife and friend and influential senior artist-in-residence in Skidmore College's Department of Theater for 26 years, died Sunday night, June 2, 2013, at her home in Saratoga Springs after a long illness.
As a professional director, Alma specialized in the development of new plays, and her commitment to American playwriting was the main focus of her career for many years. She was the resident director at New Dramatists in New York City, where she received the National Endowment for The Arts Directing Fellowship and Jerome Foundation Directing Grant. She was resident director with Bay Area Playwrights Festival in California and guest artist with Minnesota Playwrights Center and Midwest Playlets. Among the writers she collaborated with during that time were August Wilson, Mac Wellman, John Patrick Shanley, Sherry Kramer and Steve Carter.
Locally, she was a highly regarded teacher at Skidmore College.
Alma served on the Artistic Board of Home Made Theater at the Spa Little Theater. She was actively involved in SaratogaArtsFest since its inception.
Alma Becker was born in North Dakota but spent her childhood in Southern California, where she trained as an actress at the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse. She apprenticed at summer stock theaters, including Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Conn. She studied with Lloyd Richards, Olympia Dukakis and Joseph Chaiken.
She and her first husband, Ed Weingold, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, she discovered a blossoming theater community and became an integral part of it, combining her acting skills with a new passion for directing and earning numerous awards in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Her five-year association as resident director of the Eureka Theater, a company instrumental in the development of the acclaimed ""Angels in America,"" ended with her move to New York City in 1981.
In New York, Alma created productions of new plays and worked in regional theaters across the U.S.: The Women's Project, Theater for a New City, American Place Theater of New York; Portland Stage Co. of Portland, Maine; Bay Area Playwrights Festival of California; George Mason University in Virginia; and Festival des Ameriques in Montreal, Quebec.
She traveled extensively with her second husband, actor-director Steve Coats, working with theater companies in Nairobi, Kenya, and developing an ongoing relationship with the Moscow Arts Theater.
In 1987, Ms. Becker was invited to direct ""Light Up The Sky"" to open the new Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater on the Skidmore College campus. By 2012, she had directed dozens of productions for Skidmore's Theater Arts Department, including ""The Cherry Orchard,"" ""A Dream Play,"" ""American Notes,"" ""The Tempest,"" ""The House of Bernarda Alba"" and ""The Insect Play."" Saratoga audiences were also familiar with her work in productions for the Home Made Theater, where she served on the Artistic Board, ""Picasso at the Lapin Agile,"" ""Diary Of Anne Frank"" and ""Our Town,"" among many others.
Alma Becker is survived by her loving husband of 33 years and her nieces, Donna Jean Holmes of Washington and Elizabeth Dillon of Sharpsburg, Ga.; her nephews, James Schmitt of Kentucky, Jeff Schmitt of Port Townsend, Wash., and Joey Schmidtt of Sharpsburg, Ga., and their families. She also leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of mentoring, community service and a lifetime of devotion to the theater arts.
A memorial service and celebration of her life and work will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, on the Skidmore College campus.
Further details will be forthcoming.
In lieu of gifts, donations made by made to Planned Parenthood Saratoga Springs Center, 236 Washington St., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; to Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030 (www.doctorswithoutborders.org); or to any local arts organizations.
Arrangements are under the direction of William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
Online remembrances may be made at www.burkefuneralhome.com.
William J. Burke & Sons - Saratoga Springs
628 North Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Published in The Saratogian on June 10, 2013