Derek Walcott, a Nobel Laureate with an Illustrious Theatre Background, Dies at 87

Obituaries   Derek Walcott, a Nobel Laureate with an Illustrious Theatre Background, Dies at 87
The poet was the founder of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and collaborated with Paul Simon on the musical The Capeman.
Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott Jorge Mejía

Derek Walcott, the Caribbean-born poet and dramatist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, died March 17 at his home in Saint Lucia at the age of 87, according to the New York Times.

An Obie Award winner for his 1971 surrealist play The Dream on Monkey Mountain, Walcott’s stage works also included Walker, The Joker of Seville, Steel, and Beef, No Chicken. His play with music Ti-Jean and His Brothers, a fable inspired by stories he was told as a child in his native Saint Lucia, was staged by the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater in 1972.

He co-founded the Trinidad Theater Workshop in 1959 with his brother Roderick Walcott, where he served as founding director until 1971. While teaching at Boston University in 1981, Walcott founded Boston Playwright’s Theatre, the award-winning professional theatre company dedicated to developing original stage works. The theatre is also home to BU’s Creative Writing Program.

Walcott collaborated with Grammy-winning songwriter Paul Simon on the 1998 Broadway musical The Capeman, which told the true life story of Salvador Agron, a Puerto Rican gang member who murdered two teenagers in the late 1950s, then underwent a conversion as a poet while in prison.

The troubled musical played 59 preview performances before opening January 29, 1998 at the Marquis Theatre. The production—which endured overhauls to its creative team throughout its preview period—was met with largely negative reviews, and ran for only 68 regular performances. Walcott and Simon co-wrote book and lyrics to the musical, and received a Tony nomination for Best Original Score.

Walcott was also awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius Grant,” a Royal Society of Literature Award, and the Queen’s Medal for Poetry in 1988.

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