Steinbeck, a longtime Sag Harbor resident and a former Broadway stage manager in a time when women rarely held such positions, died April 27 in Manhattan at the age of 88. Pharaoh was facilities manager at the theatre since its inception in 1992 until his passing in 2002.
Mrs. Steinbeck served as a replacement assistant stage manager for Oklahoma! in the 1940s and later supervised a national tour of Othello starring Paul Robeson. Her later role in life was protecting and promoting the work of her late husband.
Theatre was in her blood from an early age, when the Austin, TX, born Elaine Anderson studied drama at the University of Texas. There, she met her future husband, Zachary Scott. The couple moved east and worked for various theatres, including Westport Country Playhouse and The Theatre Guild. They divorced in 1949. The next year, she and the novelist John Steinbeck were married until his death in 1968.
Even in her later years, Mrs. Steinbeck remained connected to the theatre, both on her own and because of interest in Steinbeck's works for the stage. She was a board member of the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, NY, where she lived when not in Manhattan.
As executor of Steinbeck's estate she would evaluate requests for his short stories and novels to be turned into stage shows (East of Eden, for example, was seen in a two-part adaptation at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Frank Galati's version of The Grapes of Wrath was a brief Broadway sensation in 1990, winning the Tony Award for Best Play). Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is known as a novella and a play (both written by the author). *
According to Bay Street, in the first weeks of the building of Bay Street Theatre, William Pharaoh appeared at the door and said simply, "I'm here to help." He was a former master machinist at Grumman, former owners of the building Bay Street inhabits. He was a native of Sag Harbor and Prince of his Montauket nation.
"For years, we urged Bill to take a salary," said founding executive director Stephen Hamilton. "But he always replied, 'Steve, you can’t pay me what I'm worth, so don’t even try.'"
In 1999 the "William R. Pharaoh Award for Creative Excellence" was established, to be given to a deserving participant in the theatre's Young Playwrights Program.
Ben Gazzara will play baseball great Yogi Berra in Nobody Don't Like Yogi, a new play which will premiere at the Bay Street Theatre this summer. Paul Linke Directs.
Thomas Lysaght wrote the one-man show, who shows Berra stepping foot in Yankee Stadium, his old stomping ground, after a 14-year absence. The play runs May 20-June 1. Gazzara, a stage and film veteran, has starred in "The Spanish Prisoner" and "The Big Lebowski" as well as the original Broadway productions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Hatful of Rain.
Aug. 5 to Aug. 31 are the dates for Julie Andrews' return to The Boy Friend, the 1954 musical that marked her Broadway debut. As previously reported, Andrews will direct a production of the Sandy Wilson musical.
Bay Street is run by Emma Walton (Andrews' daughter) and husband Steve Hamilton and Sybil Burton Christopher. There are hopes that the musical will find its way to Broadway.
Andrews, who recently completed a limited tour opposite Christopher Plummer in A Royal Christmas, told the industry paper, "I'm going places I never thought I'd go...The Boy Friend was the turning point in my career. I'm awed [at the prospect of directing], but I'm in friendly hands — it's a big family thing."
The season is rounded out by Earth to Bucky, a new play by Vanities author Jack Heifer (July 8-27) and two plays directed by Daniel Gerroll: The Lover by Harold Pinter and Bacchanalia by Arthur Schnitzler (June 10-29).