The Gospel at Colonus Playwright, Lee Breuer Dies at 83

Co-founder of Mabou Mines, New York's revolutionary experimental theatre company and writer of Broadways Pulitzer Prize finalist ‘The Gospel at Colonus’, Lee Breuer died on Sunday, January 3, 2020. Surrounded by loved ones, Breuer died in his home in New York at age 83.

Born Esser Leopold Breuer on February 6, 1937 in Philadelphia, the influential theatre practitioner, co-founded Mabou Mines in 1970, alongside composer Philip Glass, director JoAnne Akalaitis, and actors Ruth Maleczech and David Warrilow. The theater company was named after the town in Nova Scotia where Glass and Akalaitis had a home. Mabou Mines still stands as a force in New York's downtown experimental arts scene.

The Gospel at Colonus was the company's most popular work. It was a gospel music adaptation of Sophocless tragedy ‘Oedipus at Colonus’ set in a Black Pentecostal church. In 1983, the musical debuted at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and aired on PBS Great Performances in 1985. Also, in 1988, it debuted on Broadway.

The Gospel at Colonus featured The Blind Boys of Alabama and Morgan Freeman. The lyrics was written by Breuer and music by Bob Telson. In 1985, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical has been staged many times in regional theaters over the decades.

In addition, it bagged a 1986 Obie Awards for Sustained Excellence for theatrical contributions to the Off Broadway community. Breuer himself won four Obies and directed more than a dozen Obie-winning performances. His other honors include the Chevalier de lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres (French Ministry of Culture), and the Helen Hayes Award.

Until his death, Breuer was married to his artistic partner Maude Mitchell, and the union was blessed with five children.

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