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Craig Noel: 1915-2010.

THERE ARE GIANTS in the sky," counsels Stephen Sondheim. On earth, sometimes, too.

And occasionally the earth shrugs and even the giants disappear. One such man, the ineffable Craig Noel, after a lifetime of service to the art of the theatre, and to the Old Globe in San Diego in particular, slipped from us over the Easter weekend just past.


Centered in San Diego since the inception of the Globe in 1937, and having arrived during the California Exposition of 1935 when itinerant actors first gathered to perform in Balboa Park, Noel directed hundreds of productions, launched and guided major careers (like those of Marion Ross, Victor Buono, Beah Richards and Dennis Hopper), and throughout his extensive career personally welcomed and nourished more creative directors, designers and actors than most entire institutions have done.

Except for World War II, when Balboa Park was conscripted as a medical center for the Armed Forces, Noel guided the entire creative output of the Globe until he invited me to join him as artistic director in 1982. We worked together until I left the Globe in 2007--perhaps the only experience I know where a CEO turned the organization over to someone else, and then never left! We never had a moment's disagreement in all that time.

Noel was 94 when he died, conscious, witty, acerbic and still smoking as of the Tuesday before his demise. At one point, Conrad Susa, the inestimable composer, wished to create in his honor an "Imp of Fame" award, given to other similarly gifted, loving, positive icons in theatre. But we could never find anyone else who would quite qualify.

He was my last and final mentor: a man who gently encouraged all the humanity at the base of theatre itself, a funny, wise, gentle and all-embracing figure who has left us all a legacy of love, brilliance and accomplishment like no one before him.

Noel will not be missed--because he is destined to be cherished and remembered always.

Jack O'Brien is a three-time Tony-winning director and artistic director emeritus of the Old Globe of San Diego.

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Author:O'Brien, Jack
Publication:American Theatre
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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