Farewell to Helen Merrill, whose agency became perhaps the most recognized in its field representing playwrights, directors and designers. Merrill, 79, died of lung cancer Aug. 18.
David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), Richard Greenberg, Ted Tally, Jerry Zaks, Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey), Christopher Durang, and designers William Ivey Long and Ming Cho Lee, were among her best-known clients.
Rudnick told the New York Times, "She was known for her independence, her passionate devotion to theatre, and her carefully honed mystique. She loved to discover and nurture talent with a trademark combination of toughness and glee.
Said designer Lee, "She was opinionated but her opinions mattered. She could discriminate between fashion and something with a real core. In terms of the art of the theatre, we don't have anyone else."
According to the New York Post obituary, German-born Merrill started as a photographer doing actors' portraits in the 1940s. After running a gallery in the 1960s with Anthony Perkins, Merrill became a literary agent in the 1970s. Andre Bishop, former artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, told the NY Times, "[Merrill] was perhaps the first play agent to realize the importance of the new non-profit theatre movement. She saw the future before others did." --By David Lefkowitz