Isabelle Stevenson, president of the American Theatre Wing from 1966-98, is recovering after eight hours of heart surgery June 6 to repair a torn aorta that caused her to collapse at her home following the Tony Awards June 4. Wing President Roy Somlyo told Playbill On-Line (June 13) that Stevenson was "much improved. She's out of intensive care. She's very weak, of course, but on the mend. She's come through the surgery, is eating lightly, and gradually regaining her strength. It's miraculous what's happened in just a week; she's come a long way." Still, it will likely be awhile longer before she's out of hospital.
The 84-year-old Stevenson is an annual fixture on the Tony Awards broadcast as representative of the Wing and a regular moderator for the Wing's popular "Working in the Theatre" panel discussions on TV. She was given a Special Tony Award in 1999 for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
On June 4, she made her annual appearance in the Tony Awards, a collaboration between the Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers. She is currently chairman of the board of the Wing.
After the Sunday awards, she told Somlyo that she wasn't feeling well enough to go to the Tony ball, and she went home early, collapsing on the curb of her home.
The hospital location has not been disclosed, to give the family, including husband John Stevenson and their three daughters, some quiet and privacy. Somlyo said that the recovery period would be very complicated. "She's tough, and she's a fighter," Somlyo told Playbill On-Line. "It's now a question of getting through these next few days."
Stevenson was a vaudeville dancer, the "Lubow" in an act called Nice, Florio and Lubow. As president of the Wing, she worked to develop new audiences by initiating such programs as "Introduction to Broadway" (which sends high school kids to see Broadway shows) and "Theatre in Schools" (which sends theatre professionals to high schools to speak). She created and produces cable TV's "Working in the Theatre" seminars.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz