Hugh Southern, Former Executive Director of TDF and TKTS Booth Co-Conceiver, Dies at 87

Obituaries   Hugh Southern, Former Executive Director of TDF and TKTS Booth Co-Conceiver, Dies at 87
 
Mr. Southern had also served as acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.
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TKTS in 1973

Hugh Southern, who was executive director of Theatre Development Fund from 1968 to 1982, died July 15 in a Virginia hospital from pneumonia and congestive heart failure, according to The New York Times.

During his time as executive director of TDF, the nonprofit organization for the performing arts that works to make theatre affordable and accessible, Mr. Southern was among the team (with Anna Crouse, Phil Smith, and Mayor Jon Lindsay) responsible for creating the first TKTS booth to sell discount tickets for Broadway productions. The inaugural booth, a trailer donated by New York City's Parks Department, opened in June 1973 in Duffy Square. TDF now operates three TKTS booths.

Hugh Southern and Bailey Southern
Hugh Southern and Victoria Bailey

Following his time with TDF, Mr. Southern worked for the National Endowment for the Arts, the independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity communities across the country. He spent several years as deputy chairman before being named acting chairman in 1989. That year, one of the photos in an exhibition of the work of Andres Serrano, which was supported by a $15,000 NEA grant, drew the ire of the religious right.

His leadership during the controversy helped Mr. Southern land a position as general manager of The Metropolitan Opera, even though his experience in the field was limited. Mr. Southern, however, stepped down from the role eight months after he began, explaining that he had “not found fulfillment.”

Mr. Southern later worked for the Virginia Festival of American Film, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Manhattan’s Film Forum.

Born March 20, 1932, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Mr. Southern attended King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English language and literature in 1956. He permanently moved to New York not long after with his first wife, Jane Rosemary Southern, whom he later divorced.

He is survived by his second wife, Kathy Dwyer Southern; three children, William Norman Southern and Hillary Llewellyn Southern from his first marriage, and Jaime Andres Southern from his second; and three grandchildren.

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