John McCormack, a longtime behind-the-scenes force in Off Broadway theater, died Monday, May 18, at his home in Queens, New York from complications related to COVID-19. He was 61.
McCormack’s death was announced by Off Broadway’s INTAR Theatre, where he was executive director.
During a nearly 40-year career, McCormack was an influential player in New York theater, working in producing, artistic director and executive positions at such companies as Ensemble Studio Theatre, Naked Angels, the Zipper Theater, his own company All Seasons Theater, and, since 2006, INTAR.
Many of the performers and writers he championed would go on to successful careers in theater, film and television. Among the artists whose careers he impacted over the years were actors Kevin Bacon, Patricia Clarkson, Rob Morrow; playwrights Warren Leight, Richard Greenberg, Lucas Hnath and Alan Zweibel; director Mark Brokaw and artistic directors Douglas Aibel, Bernard Telsey and Christopher Ashley, among many others.
“Nobody encouraged me more as a playwright than John McCormack,” said Leight, Tony Award winner for Side Man and Executive Producer of Law & Order: SVU. “He produced the very first staged reading of Side Man and at least a dozen of my one-acts over the past 25 years. He was tireless in his support of writers and actors, and utterly self-effacing when anyone tried to thank him.”
Greenberg, whose play Take Me Out won a Tony in 2003 and was about to be revived on Broadway when the pandemic shutdown hit, said, “I don’t think I ever completely understood John (of course you can say that about anybody) but one idea about him has stuck with me these last few days: I think of anyone I’ve known who’s made a life in the theater, he was the least concerned with conventional notions of success. He worked on what he liked, with whom he liked, and was deeply loyal. That’s really something.”
Tony-winning playwright Christopher Durang called McCormack “a great supporter of writers on every level,” who “gave me space to bring in an early rough draft to an informal reading series he was having with my partner, John Augustine. It was the first act of what was to become Betty’s Summer Vacation.”
Director Mark Brokaw (How I Learned to Drive, This is Our Youth), said, “I met John at Ensemble Studio Theatre within days of arriving in New York, and he immediately took me under his wing – as he did so many others – and guided and nurtured me over the years. He was a wonderful, kind, smart, generous and wickedly funny man – we spent so much of our time together just laughing.”
McCormack is survived by sister Katherine McCormack and her spouse Theodore Kagy, sister Mary Mazza and her husband Anthony Mazza, brother James McCormack, brother Paul McCormack and his spouse Kathleen McCormack, and a niece and three nephews.
Funeral services will be private. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in his memory be made to the Actors Fund COVID-19 Emergency Relief.
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