Bruce Kessler

  • "Bruce, for a reticent soul you took up outsized residence..."
    - Barry Berg

1940 - 2019
The first of four sons of Jack and Pearl Kessler, Bruce was born in New York City. He attended P.S. 182, J.H.S. 149, and Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn. As a boy, he showed an early interest in theatre and music, creating, casting, and producing plays in his neighborhood with local children as actors. He learned to play the violin and the piano, sang in a choir, and actively participated in the theatre groups at Jeff and Brooklyn College.
Bruce went on to become one of the first playwrights to have original work put on at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, the legendary Lower East Side venue for nascent dramatists in the early 1960s. Through his work at La MaMa, he met and worked with many of the important playwrights of the second half of the 20th century. His first production at La MaMa was Son of Fricka (1963), followed by A Room Hung with Curtains and A.I.R. (Artist in Residence) the same year. Numerous other plays of his were performed there over the next ten years, also winning prizes and honorable mentions in several competitions. His work was part of the 20th Anniversary Celebration of La MaMa's founding and of its important place in the history of Off-Off-Broadway theatre.
A Metropolitan Opera season ticket holder, Bruce developed an enduring love and extensive knowledge of opera. He was also a natural linguist, speaking fluent French, impressive Russian, and respectable Italian and Spanish, and had recently taught a grandnephew Pig Latin. His conversations, e-mails, and phone calls were filled with wit, repartee, and wordplay.
Bruce never married, but he developed strong ties to his brothers' children and followed their doings with care and concern. He is survived by his brothers Marc (Judy), Paul (Christine), and Andrew (Marlene); his nieces and nephews Tisiphone Meyer (Paul), Joshua (Jaime), Scheherazade, Jennifer Kessler Burke (Michael), and Deirdre; his grandnephews Matthew, Theodore, and Samuel; and cousins Judith Beltzner (Klaus), Larry Kessler (Millie), Lenny Wagner (Julie), Claudia Colaianni (Tom), and Mitchell Zeidwig (Pat).
There were many other important people in his life. Lucy Aptekar, whom he met at Brooklyn College, became an inseparable companion and confidante; Bruce was the godfather to her two sons, Matthew and Jason. Fellow playwright Barry Berg encouraged him in his many projects. His former sister-in-law Joanne Pfeffer was always in his thoughts. Rochelle (Shelly) Feldman Strider, Helen Dannenberg, and Owen Levy were among his lifelong friends.
Bruce's contribution to the theatre was small but significant; his contribution to the lives he touched was deep and meaningful.
If you wish, you may make a donation in Bruce's name to La MaMa:
Published on from Nov. 6 to Nov. 7, 2019
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