May 7, 2010
Esiaba Irobi, associate professor of international theater, died on May 3 in Berlin at the age of 49.
Irobi was internationally recognized as a director, scholar and playwright, most notably as the winner of the World Drama Trust Award for playwriting in 1992 for his play "Cemetery Road." He also published many books and plays, including the poetry collection "Why I don't like Philip Larkin" and an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
In recent years, Irobi had been awarded several fellowships to study the theater, film and literature of the African Diaspora at Dartmouth University, the University of the West Indies and Freie Universität in Berlin. He had worked as a faculty member at Ohio University since 2002.
According to School of Theater Director William Fisher, Irobi was by far the most published and produced writer among the School of Theater faculty.
"On behalf of the School of Theater and personally, I am deeply saddened at the loss of our dear colleague and friend, Dr. Esiaba Irobi," he said. "Esiaba was genuinely excited by the artistic and intellectual pursuits and remained a radical to the end. He inspired students and often amazed colleagues. He was a rare man, brilliant, a true eccentric, a poet. I miss him here and in the world.”
Jeff Rosenberg, who earned a bachelor degree in playwriting from Ohio University in 2004, works in Los Angeles as an assistant director and filmmaker. He remembers Irobi as a passionate, challenging and inspiring teacher who encouraged him and his classmates to question their understanding of the world and of themselves.
"He truly made you want to be a better student which, as I see it, should be the number one goal of any successful educator," Rosenberg said. "Since his passing, I have heard from countless classmates and peers, all cherishing specific stories and memories of how Dr. Irobi positively affected their lives. He truly was a unique soul and will be remembered forever."
Ohio University alumna Molly Pacenta, BFA '04, likewise remembers Irobi's significant impact as an educator.
"I can truly say the Dr. Irobi changed my life," she said. "It was because of him that I ended up living in Africa for two years after graduation. Now I spend my days trying to help people who can't seem to help themselves."
Born in the Republic of Biafra, Irobi earned a bachelor's degree in English and drama and a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He also held a master's degree in film and theater from the University of Sheffield and a doctorate in theater studies from the University of Leeds.
Information regarding services or memorials is not yet available.