Carson Wilford Leach
August 26, 1929
Petersburg, Virginia, USA
|Died||June 18, 1988 (aged 58)|
|Occupation(s)||Theatre director, film director, screenwriter, academic|
|Awards||Drama Desk Awards|
Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical
1981 The Pirates of Penzance
1986 The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Leach was born in Petersburg, Virginia, on August 26, 1929. A performance of Pygmalion he saw as a teenager inspired him to work in theatre. After graduating from the College of William & Mary in 1953, Leach went on to earn both a master's degree and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. Leach began teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in 1958. He also taught at the Yale School of Drama during the years 1978 and 1979.
After moving to New York City, Leach became the artistic director of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club for much of the 1970s. At La MaMa, he frequently collaborated with John Braswell. They directed the ETC Company, a resident company of La MaMa, in a repertory that included adaptations of Carmilla, Demon, The Only Jealousy of Emer, Renard, and Gertrude, a musical about the title character based loosely on Gertrude Stein.
Leach also directed works for Joseph Papp's Public Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival, where he directed a production of The Pirates of Penzance in 1980 with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, and Patricia Routledge. The production transferred to Broadway with the same cast in January 1981, with Estelle Parsons replacing Routledge. Leach won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical for the Broadway production in 1981. Leach directed a film version of The Pirates of Penzance in 1983 with the same cast, with Angela Lansbury replacing Parsons.
Leach's additional theatre directing credits include two projects that originated at the Public and then transferred to Broadway: The Human Comedy (1984) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1986), for which he won his second Tony Award.
While teaching at Sarah Lawrence, Leach met then-students Brian De Palma and Cynthia Munroe. In collaboration with De Palma and Munroe, he produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for the 1969 film The Wedding Party, whose cast included a young Robert De Niro and Jill Clayburgh. He also directed the films All's Well That Ends Well (1978) with Frances Conroy for television and a straight-to-video version of Coriolanus (1979) with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.
The protagonist of Brian De Palma's film Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Winslow Leach, is named after Wilford Leach.
- Credits. FilmReference.com, accessed May 19, 2009.
- Ostroka, Beverly (1991). Ellen Stewart's Global Pushcart: twenty-six years of internationalism at La MaMa, 1962-1968. University of Colorado (PhD dissertation).
- Barron, James."Wilford Leach, Theater Director And Papp Associate, Dies at 59".The New York Times, June 21, 1988.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Video Work: Documentation of 'Carmilla' (1972)". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Video Work: Documentation of 'Demon' (1972)". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Video Work: Documentation of 'The Only Jealousy of Emer' (1972)". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Video Work: Documentation of 'Renard' (1972)". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Video Work: Documentation of 'Gertrude' (1972)". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections, "Individual: Wilford Leach". Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- Biography, Universal Studios, January 5, 1983. Ronstadt-Linda.com, accessed May 19, 2009.
- Tony Awards BroadwayWorld.com, accessed May 19, 2009.
- Biography. AllMovie.com, accessed May 19, 2009.
- Mitchell, Sean (December 26, 1990). "AIDS and the Arts: Behind the Scenes of a Tragedy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2022.