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Gelber, Jack 1932-2003

GELBER, Jack 1932-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 12, 1932, in Chicago, IL; died of Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia May 9, 2003, in New York, NY. Educator and author. Gelber was a noted playwright who was most famous for his 1959 play The Connection. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1953, Gelber moved to New York City, where he found work as a mimeograph operator at the United Nations offices. His interest in jazz and theater led him to write his first play, The Connection, while living in Haiti. Returning to New York, he managed to get the play—an innovative drama that explores the world of drug dealers and employs many innovative techniques designed to make the audience believe it is eavesdropping on actual conversations rather than watching a play—produced by the Living Theater in 1959. At first panned by critics, the play soon gained acceptance and then praise, garnering an Obie Award and running for over seven hundred performances before it closed in 1961. It was also adapted as a 1962 film. After this initial success, Gelber continued to write plays, including The Apple (1961), The Cuban Thing (1968), and an adaptation of Norman Mailer's Barbary Shore (1972), but none of these won quite as much attention as his debut work. He also penned a novel, On Ice, in 1964. Gelber was a writer-in-residence at City College of the City University of New York from 1965 to 1966, an adjunct drama professor at Columbia University from 1967 to 1972, and a professor of drama at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York beginning in 1972, as well as teaching at the Actors Studio at the New School for Social Research (now New School University). He also directed plays at the Lincoln Center, the New Theatre Workshop, and the American Place Theatre.



Contemporary Dramatists, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 228: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Modern American Literature, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2003, section 2, p. 11.

New York Times, May 10, 2003, p. A17.

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