Harvard Professor, Playwright William Alfred is Dead at 76

News   Harvard Professor, Playwright William Alfred is Dead at 76
 
William Alfred, the playwright, poet and professor whose best-known work was Hogan's Goat, died in his sleep early on May 20 in his home in Cambridge, MA. He was 76.

William Alfred, the playwright, poet and professor whose best-known work was Hogan's Goat, died in his sleep early on May 20 in his home in Cambridge, MA. He was 76.

Hogan's Goat, a drama about Irish-American politics, opened in New York in 1965 and ran for more than 600 performances, in the process bringing stardom to actress Faye Dunaway.

The annual "Best Plays" volume singled it out as the finest script of the year. The drama was turned into a musical, Cry For Us All, which had a brief run in 1970.

Other plays included The Annunciation Rosary, a version of Agamemnon, and The Curse of an Aching Heart, written for Dunaway and mounted in New York in 1982.

For many years Mr. Alfred taught the playwriting course at Harvard University, and was a strong influence on such actors as John Lithgow, Stockard Channing, and Tommy Lee Jones, who is on record as stating, "My best teacher, ever, was William Alfred." Mr. Alfred himself said, "I write plays because I love people the way dog-lovers love dogs, indiscriminately, and want to capture as many as I can in all their baffled splendor."

Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Alfred graduated from Brooklyn College, and earned a master's and Ph.D. at Harvard. He joined the Harvard faculty in 1954, and became the Lowell Professor of the Humanities in 1980, retiring in 1991 but continuing to tutor a few students.

Two years ago, Alfred gave the Theodore Spencer Memorial Lecture in Cambridge, in which he offered his personal reminiscences about the theater.

At his death, he was working on a new play and his memoirs.

His honors included an award from the New York Drama Desk and an honorary degree from the University of San Diego. He was a member of the Dramatists Guild and Phi Beta Kappa.

-- Caldwell Titcomb
Special to Playbill On-Line courtesy of "This Month ON STAGE" magazine

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