VAN ITALLIE--Jean Claude. Jean Claude van Itallie, born May 25, 1936, died September 9, 2021. Born in Brussels to the late Hugo and Marthe (Levy) van Itallie, he and his family escaped the Nazi invasion in 1940, thanks to the heroism of Aristide de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese consul whose visas saved thousands of Jewish refugees. Jean-Claude grew up in Great Neck, New York and graduated from Harvard in 1958. As a playwright during the 1960s, he was a seminal force in the explosive Off-Broadway theater. He wrote the acclaimed anti-Vietnam War play America Hurrah and was one of the original playwrights of Ellen Stewart's La MaMa Experimental Theater Club and ensemble playwright of Joseph Chaikin's Open Theater with whom he wrote The Serpent. Jean Claude van Itallie's many plays included Bag Lady, Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not To Do It Again, War, The Traveler, and Light. Most recently, his opera Mila, Great Sorcerer was presented at the Prototype Festival and his play The Fat Lady Sings at LaMama, both in 2019. His translations of Chekhov's plays are prized for their clarity and subtle rhythms. A devoted teacher, he directed performance, writing, and meditation workshops at Naropa, Princeton, and Yale, among other universities and retreat centers. He was the author of The Playwright's Workbook and Tea with Demons: Games of Transformation. On his mountainside farm in western Massachusetts, he welcomed performers, writers, artists, educators, healers, and spiritual guides through his Shantigar Foundation for Theatre, Meditation, and Healing. Jean Claude was beloved by a large community of friends and by his brother Michael (and wife Marion), stepmother Christine, niece Jessica, nephew Jason (and wife Uma), and their children. Memorial celebrations will be hosted in the future at Shantigar in Massachusetts and at La Mama in New York City.
Published by New York Times on Sep. 15, 2021.