Robert Whitehead, who, over a 50-year career produced landmark productions of everything from Arthur Miller to Euripides to Terrence McNally, will received a 2002 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
Whitehead has more than 70 credits to his name. He focused almost exclusively on plays during his days as a Broadway producer and his name is associated with serious, high-minded fare. Often his projects hosted commanding acting turns by the likes of Paul Scofield, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Julie Harris, Ethel Waters, Kim Stanley, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Jason Robards, Elizabeth Ashley, Blythe Danner and Raul Julia. He first produced under his own name in 1947, backing the famous Judith Anderson production of Medea.
Among the producer's most lasting and rewarding relationships was that with Arthur Miller. Whitehead produced many of the playwrights' mid-careers efforts, including the original stagings of The Price, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, A Memory of Two Mondays/A View from the Bridge and The Creation of the World and Other Business, as well as a revival Death of a Salesman (with Dustin Hoffman).
Whitehead also worked repeatedly with Harold Pinter, producing the U.S. premieres of No Man's Land, Betrayal and Old Times. Other credits include the original productions of The Member of the Wedding (with Julie Harris); The Time of the Cuckoo (with Shirley Booth); The Flowering Peach; Orpheus Descending; The Visit (with Alfred Lunt and Joan Fontanne in their final Broadway performance); A Man for All Seasons (for which he won a Tony Award); Bus Stop (with Kim Stanley); Separate Tables; The Physicists; A Few Good Men; and Lillian, Master Class and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, all starring Zoe Caldwell, his wife. He directed Caldwell in Medea.
At the peak of his activity, Whitehead produced three to four plays a season, usually with his longtime partner Roger L. Stevens. Together they formed The Producers Theatre. From 1960 to 1964, he was co-artistic director with Elia Kazan of the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center. His productions there included After the Fall, Tartuffe and The Changling. Rare encounters with musicals included Goldilocks in 1958 and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1976. Neither was a success.
His most recent producing credit was McNally's Master Class, which won a Tony Award for Best Play, Best Actress in a Play for Zoe Caldwell, and Best Featured Actress in a play for Audra McDonald. The show was also his second longest-running hit, playing 610 performances. A Man for All Seasons had 638.
Whitehead was born in 1916 in Montreal. He began his theatrical career as an actor, first appearing on Broadway in 1936.
He is currently invoked in Elaine Stritch's one-person show At Liberty as "elegant, dishy Robert Whitehead." A soft-spoken, decorous man, he has for many years affected a dapper, pencil-thin moustache. Stritch starred in his Bus Stop and Goldilocks.
—By Robert Simonson