By Amy Wells
The man for whom Ohio University's annual playwrights' festival is named will be remembered for the passion he brought to guiding young writers and a laugh that could sell an entire audience.
Professor Emeritus of Theater Seabury Quinn Jr., 82, died Nov. 8 in The Bronx. Quinn taught in the School of Theater from 1968 through 1996. Though his focus was theater history, Quinn loved to act and direct and also headed the school's playwriting program. The school's annual playwrights' festival was established in his honor in 1994.
"He was one most the most cantankerous and witty people I knew," said fellow Professor Emeritus of Theater George Sherman. (The two met in 1954 at Yale, where Quinn earned a doctorate. "He was a very warm and intellectual person and a true friend. Our friendship lasted for 50 years, and he's part of the reason I came to Ohio."
Sherman had been a professional director for 25 years and was considering a change to spend more time with his family when he saw a job posting for Ohio University.
"I called him to see if he thought I should apply, and he said, 'If you don't send anything in, don't ever call me again,'" Sherman said.
Many remember Quinn for his distinctive laugh -- often a single, explosive "Ha!"
"If he was enjoying the performance, the audience would just pick up and ride on his coattails. You could hear his laugh in Meigs County," Sherman said. "He was truly a man for all seasons and one of the last great wearers of bow ties."
Professor of Theater Charles Smith, head of the university's playwriting program, called Quinn "one of the most exciting guides for young writers" he's ever encountered.
He described South African poet Antjie Krog's philosophy that it's the job of a tribe's poet to remember the location of watering holes to ensure survival of the tribe.
"Seabury definitely knew where the watering holes were within the school," Smith said, "and he often led his students in ways they didn't realize they were being led."
Alumnus Eric Coble, who earned his MFA in 1993, wrote his first play in one of Quinn's classes.
"Unbeknownst to me, that class was to be a major turn in my life, as I went from actor to actor/playwright, to now making my living solely writing for theater," Coble said. "His persona and legend were always bigger than the slight, stooped man we met in the halls. He was the pepper in the soup of the theater program."
School of Theater personnel are attempting to find out more about memorial arrangements, and Outlook will update this story if information becomes available.
Personal remembrances may be sent to School of Theater Director William Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org for posting on the alumni section of the school's Web site.