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Richard Gilman: In Memoriam

Richard Gilman, my teacher and mentor, long incapacitated by illness, died in Japan on October 29. His wife Yasuko wrote to friends: "No struggle, no pain. Suddenly he stopped breathing, without any sign of doing so. In peace. He had reached the limit and decided to leave." Dick would have savored the description. No excess words or sentiment: the calm certainty that the terrible facts speak for themselves bears the stamp of his magisterial sang-froid. Dick's supple, elegant, mellifluous prose was a gift to theater criticism. I always thought that the theater was lucky he chose it as a subject, even though many theater artists, guardians of a chronically degraded art, resented his expectation that they could or should rise to his level. As a teacher, Dick could be neglectful, even cruel at times, but he could also be shockingly perceptive, unaccountably generous, and lavish in his enthusiasms. He had a characteristic expulsion of delight that always began the same way: head turned sideways, hand on the back of his neck squeezing a slender cigarillo, then (after due cogitation) a gust of eloquent praise. That's the Dick Gilman I'll remember.

--Jonathan Kalb



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