Norma Langworthy, Theatre Producer, Dies at 92

News   Norma Langworthy, Theatre Producer, Dies at 92
 
Norma Langworthy, a life-long theatre devotee who produced plays Off-Broadway and on, died Jan. 28 at her home in New York City. She was 92.

Forty years after a youthful career as a dancer, Mrs. Langworthy began her career as a producer. Off-Broadway, she produced Cliffhanger, The Perfect Party, Suds, The Springhill Singing Disaster, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) and, in 1988, Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca.

Her first Broadway venture was an associate producer of Sweet Sue in 1987. She was nearly 70 at the time. She went on to co-produce the Broadway premieres of Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lonesome West, and revivals of The Best Man and A Thousand Clowns.

She also supported many New York theatre companies, including the Roundabout Theatre Company, which, in December 2005, named the Langworthy Lounge in the American Airlines Theatre after her.

To denizens of Greenwich Village, however, Mrs. Langworthy was best known for providing a regular source of theatre on W. 11th Street, where she lived. Her townhouse's angled front window was the showcase of a stuffed Paddington Bear, which Mrs. Langworthy dressed every day of the year in weather- or holiday-appropriate wear. Halloween costumes, raincoats, Santa hats—the bear has worn it all. The children of the neighborhood used to write the bear notes and the grown-ups would leave presents in the mailbox.

By special request, one day Mrs. Langworthy put two bears in the window dressed as a bride and groom. Outside, a neighborhood doctor proposed to his girlfriend. (The bear is currently dressing in mourning black.) On the historic Village block, the building, No. 18, stood out for its modernity. The home that had previously stood at the address was destroyed on March 10, 1970, when a homemade bomb built by the revolutionary group The Weather Underground accidentally exploded. The event made national headlines. Previous residents of the building have been Charles Merrill, founder of Merrill Lynch; his son, poet James Merrill; and Broadway lyricist Howard Dietz.

In June 1977, Norma and husband David Langworthy—who had grown wealthy in the family business, an airplane parts factory—bought the vacant land and built the current structure, using a design by architect Hugh Hardy. The stuffed animal appeared soon after.

Locals called it the Weather Bear.

Norma Shea was born in Pittsburgh, PA, June 24, 1919, to Joseph and Jeannette Shea, and received her BA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University. In 1943, she married David Langworthy, afterwards moving to Philadelphia, PA, where they resided until 1979. Her husband died in 1993.

She is survived by her four children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Donations can be made to the Roundabout Theatre Company, 231 West 39th Street, Suite 1200, New York, NY, 10018.

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