Playwright Howard Simon, whose James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire opened Off-Broadway at Abrons Art Center at the Henry Street Settlement April 9, died April 12 at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, The New York Times reported.
The cause of death was septic shock prompted by streptococcus meningitis, according to The Times. He had been in the hospital since April 1 and did not recover from a coma to see that his play earned favorable reviews. He was 37.
The new play, presented by Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre, takes place in 1963 on the eve of a meeting James Baldwin and other prominent African-Americans had with attorney general Robert Kennedy. It was Mr. Simon's major New York debut as a writer, although a number of his plays were seen regionally.
Mr. Simon was a Cleveland native who earned his bachelor's degree at Morehouse College and his master's degree in 1997 from the dramatic writing program at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
SoHo Rep presented a staged reading his thesis play, One of the Children. His other plays include The Red House on the Red Clay Hill (Theatre 22), Upstairs Apartment and MICA No. 6. He also penned a Emmy Award-nominated teleplay, "Just Passin' Through," about a black man passing for white in the 1963 civil rights march to Washington DC.
Mr. Simon taught in New York City schools.
Performances of James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire continue to April 30.
-- By Kenneth Jones