Louis Lippa, 90, a longtime playwright, director, actor, and teacher, died Wednesday, Sept. 5. No cause of death was given.
Within hours of his passing, the local theater world was issuing remembrances and celebrations of his legacy.
"He absolutely loved working in theater," said his son, Christopher, "and was like a kid locked in a toy store with it his whole life. Writing plays was his drumbeat, but he could never get enough of being onstage, or using his skills as a director or a teacher."
Born in Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Lippa grew up in South Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor's degree at Temple University and, after Army service in World War II, returned home to finish his master's degree at Temple. (In 1976, he would complete his M.F.A. in playwriting there.) Also in 1951, he became a member of the original Hedgerow Repertory Theatre company at Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, where founder Jasper Deeter encouraged Mr. Lippa's efforts at playwriting.
In fact, when the Hedgerow closed in the mid-1950s, Mr. Lippa and a friend raised the money to reopen it and put on Mr. Lippa's play A House Remembered. Reaction was good, and they raised enough money to take the play to New York and off-Broadway, where A House Remembered won the 1957 Obie award for best new play.
Mr. Lippa supported himself with theater work, including acting in the celebrated off-Broadway production of Threepenny Opera with Lotte Lenya, Edward Asner, and other stars. But he was frustrated with not finding an actors' ensemble or repertory he could join. So he came back to Philadelphia, and worked for six years as artistic director with the Cheltenham Center for the Arts.
After a stint at the Theatre of Western Springs in Illinois, in 1974 he became one of the first members in residence at the then-People's Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, where he would direct, produce, be a writer in residence, and mentor other actors for the rest of his working life. He also kept his ties with Hedgerow, as actor, director, and mentor; it was at Hedgerow that he met Nancy Metzgar, his future spouse.
Peter DeLaurier, a longtime colleague of Mr. Lippa's at People's Light, remembered "a loyal, provocative, gifted and inspiring collaborator." He said he was grateful to have been part of plays by Mr. Lippa such as Sign of the Lizard and of his gifted adaptations, which included Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. "Lou understood Luigi Pirandello like no American before him," DeLaurier said.
An "In Memoriam" posted on the People's Light web page gives a snapshot of Mr. Lippa: "Lou liked nothing better than a good debate. His subject matter was wide ranging: Aristotle, Brecht, Marxism, marinara sauce, and the Phillies. His zest for passionate engagement was legendary, his belief in the power of theater to change hearts and minds unquenchable."
Besides the Obie, his many honors included the Dramatic Publishing Co.'s National Award for The Stone House; the Kennedy Center's New Play Award for Sign of the Lizard, and a 2004 Barrymore Award for lifetime achievement. His translation of Six Characters won the 2008 Barrymore for best play. His last acting role was at People's Light as Knut Brovik in Ibsen's The Master Builder in 2011.
Mr. Lippa's family lived in several towns locally, notably Springfield. Nancy Lippa died in 2008.
In addition to his son, Mr. Lippa is survived by daughter Anita and two grandchildren.