Israel Horovitz Dies: Prolific Playwright, Screenwriter Accused Of Sexual Abuse Was 81

Horovitz, 2014 Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File

Playwright Israel Horovitz, whose Off Broadway productions provided early stages for such soon-to-be-stars as Al Pacino, Marsha Mason, John Cazale and Richard Dreyfus but whose later career was severely damaged by repeated accusations of sexual assault, died at his Manhattan home of cancer on Nov. 9. He was 81.

His death was confirmed to The New York Times by wife Gillian Horovitz. Horovitz’s children include Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, film producer Rachael Horovitz and TV producer Matthew Horovitz.

Horovitz’s first success came in 1968, with the Off Broadway double-bill The Indian Wants the Bronx and It’s Called the Sugar Plum, featuring casts that included Pacino, Mason and Cazale. Mason’s future Goodbye Girl costar Dreyfuss appeared, with Cazale, in Horovitz’s 1970 play Line, which was Off Off Broadway’s longest running production when it closed in 2018.

Though a prolific and acclaimed writer of works for Off Broadway and regional theaters, including Massachusetts’ Gloucester Stage Company that he cofounded in 1979, Horovitz was represented on Broadway only twice. The first time, in 1968, with Morning, Noon and Night, a trio of one-act plays written Horovitz, Terrence McNally and Leonard Melfi. Park You Car in Harvard Yard, directed by Zoe Caldwell and starring Judith Ivey and Jason Robards, played for about four months in 1991-92.

Horovitz’s film credits include, among others, 1982’s Author! Author! starring Pacino and Dyan Cannon, 2014’s My Old Lady starring Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith, and, for TV, the 2001 James Dean biopic starring James Franco.

Horovitz’s offstage life came under scrutiny in 1993, when The Boston Phoenix reported multiple accusations of sexual misconduct made by women who worked at or for the Gloucester Stage Company.

The accusations resurfaced with the arrival of the Me Too movement and a 2017 New York Times article with nine women alleging inappropriate behavior, sexual assault and rape. At least one was a teenager when she first encountered Horovitz. The playwright apologized “to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions,” though noted he had “a different memory of some of these events.”

The playwright resigned from his 28-year post as Gloucester Stage’s founding artistic director in the wake of the Times‘ 2017 report.

Horovitz is survived by wife Gillian and children Rachel, Adam, Matthew, Hannah and Oliver Horovitz.

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