Honored playwright-director Jerome Lawrence, in collaboration with Robert E. Lee, created enduring works of the American theatre, including Inherit the Wind; The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, which premiered at Ohio State and then went to become "the most widely produced play of our time" and Auntie Mame.
Born in Ohio, Lawrence and Lee received many of the most prestigious awards in the theatre, including the Donaldson Award, the Ohioana Award, Variety Critics Poll--both in New York and London, two Peabody Awards for distinguished Achievement in Broadcasting, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Theatre Association. Lawrence served on the Boards of Directors of the American Conservatory Theatre, the National Repertory Theatre, the Dramatist Guild, the Writers Guild of America, and the Authors Guild of America.
Committed to excellence in theatre, Lawrence co-founded American Playwrights Theatre (headquartered at OSU) and co-founded and served as judge of the Margo Jones Award. He received honorary doctorates from the College of Wooster, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and The Ohio State University, where he served as visiting professor. He graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University.
He was master playwright at New York University, and the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies and adjunct professor in the graduate school at the University of Southern California. He traveled throughout the world on missions of cultural exchange. Critics have called Lawrence's Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni one of the best theatre biographies of the century.
Named to the national Theatre Hall of Fame in 1990, Jerome Lawrence passed away on February 29, 2004. He is survived by his nieces and nephew, Deborah, Joshua and Paula Robison, the family of his writing collaborator, Robert E. Lee, and a host of friends and colleagues.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee was educated in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio, then at Northwestern and Ohio Wesleyan Universities. With colleague-collaborator Jerome Lawrence, Lee's place in American theatre history is assured by a prodigious volume of work, including the contemporary theatre classics Inherit the Wind, First Monday in October, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, Auntie Mame, and 30 other major theatre productions.
Co-founder of the Armed Forces Radio Service, American Playwrights Theatre, and the Margo Jones Award, Lee was very much involved in both the academic and professional theatre scene as dramatist, director, and teacher. He received an Honorary Doctor of Literature from, a Doctor of Letters from the College of Wooster, and a Doctor of Humanities from The Ohio State University.
For almost two decades he was adjunct professor of playwriting at UCLA and served on the Executive Writers Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He maintained a lifelong commitment to new plays and new playwrights.
The plays of Lawrence and Lee have been translated and performed in 32 languages throughout the world.
On the home front, Lawrence and Lee wrote the opening play for the Thurber Theatre at OSU: Jabberwock: Improbabilities Lived and Imagined by James Thurber in the Fictional City of Columbus, Ohio.
Lawrence and Lee were named Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center in 1990. Their final collaboration, Whisper in the Mind, was produced later that year at Arizona State University, and received its professional premiere at the Missouri Repertory Theatre in 1994. Robert E. Lee died July 8, 1994, in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, actress Janet Waldo Lee and his daughter and son, Lucy and Jonathan Lee.
"Theatre is the universal means of expression. It embraces all of the arts through which human minds seek to reach one another."
Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee - November, 1986