Steve Carter, whose plays depicting life in Black and Caribbean-American communities came to life on Off-Broadway and Chicago stages, died September 15 in Texas. He was 90. His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his friend Deb McGee.
Born November 7, 1929, as Horace E. Carter Jr., Mr. Carter was surrounded by theatre from an early age while growing up in Manhattan, though he did not pursue it as a professional until later. He saw his first Broadway show, Amphityron 38, at the age of eight, and went on to study at the High School of Music and Art (prior to its being renamed LaGuardia High School of Music & Art & Performing Arts). Shortly after, he served in the military. While stationed in Europe, he got married and had two children, who died in a car crash; he did not discuss his family or the incident publicly.
Upon returning to the states, Mr. Carter worked as an orderly at New York Hospital for over 10 years, and his experiences with hospice care and the difficult decisions it demands served as the inspiration for many of his works.
His first play, Terraced Apartment, premiered in 1965. Two years after this, the Negro Ensemble Company was founded, and Mr. Carter joined the collective early, spearheading its literary department and playwriting workshop.
In 1974, the company presented Terraces, which included a reworked version of Terraces Apartment and additional sketches. They’d go on to produce a handful of his other works, including the first two installments of his trilogy about New York-based Caribbean families: Eden and Nevis Mountain Dew (which earned him a Drama Desk nomination). When the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Leslie Lee’s The First Breeze of Summer transferred to Broadway, he served as a production coordinator.
The third play of the series, Dame Lorraine, premiered at Victory Gardens Theater in 1981, around which time Mr. Carter left Negro Ensemble Company. The Chicago company would go on to present several more works by the playwright through 1990, including the vaudeville-inspired Shoot Me While I’m Happy and his Caribbean-set Medea adaptation, Pecong.
Mr. Carter is survived by his sister, June Bentham.