Florida Rep Mourns the Loss of Terry Teachout
Today the theatre industry mourns the loss of Terry Teachout, the longtime drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, who died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 65. He was an acclaimed biographer, librettist, and playwright. In his work as an arts journalist and theatre critic, Terry was a fierce advocate for regional theatres – including Florida Rep – and devoted his weekly column to celebrating directors, designers, and actors who make their living outside New York. For Florida Rep, Terry was a frequent visitor, a tireless supporter, and to many in our circle, he was a friend.
The Wall Street Journal eulogized him as “an artistic savant of wide erudition…His prose was always lively and accessible, and in his judgments he was clear-eyed, uninterested in conventional wisdom, and committed to assessing each production on its merits. He believed in upholding standards of artistic quality and execution, regardless of the fashions of the times…Terry made a particular mark by exploring the American theater beyond Broadway. He was a tireless champion of regional theater, reviewing more productions than any other critic.”
In January 2009, Terry Teachout changed the trajectory of Florida Rep’s season in the early months of the Great Recession with a review of Brian Friel’s dark, Irish drama, Dancing at Lughnasa. Teachout gave the production – and our ensemble of artists – a sterling national review, telling readers nationwide, “I confess to not having expected to run across so stirring a production of Dancing at Lughnasa a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. Yet that is what Florida Rep has given us, and anyone unlucky enough not to have seen this modern masterpiece should make haste to Fort Myers, where the weather is warm and the theater fine.”
During that visit, Terry and his late wife, Hilary, fell in love with Sanibel Island, Southwest Florida, and professional theatre across the state. He returned every year until 2017, when his wife’s illness prevented the pair from making as many trips as was their custom. When the pandemic shuttered theatres, Terry was undeterred, and began reviewing online offerings from theatres across the country – including Florida Rep’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 and Twelfth Night for young audiences.
Terry Teachout’s impact on regional companies large and small cannot be understated. He wrote enthusiastically, honestly, and passionately about work on stages in and outside of New York and reminded his readers that in many cases the work in the regions was as good as (and oftentimes better) than Broadway. For Florida Rep, the national attention was game-changing. Florida Rep and our community of artists and theatre professionals owe Terry Teachout and The Wall Street Journal a debt of gratitude. His voice was alone in our industry as a champion for regional theatre, and will be sorely missed.
Florida Rep will mark his passing with dimmed lights and a moment of silence at the January 14 7 PM performance of Morning After Grace in the Historic Arcade Theatre.