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Lloyd Richards

Actor and director Lloyd Richards was born on June 29, 1919 in Toronto, Canada. His father, a Jamaican “Garveyite” master carpenter, moved the family to Detroit in search of a job at Henry Ford’s automobile plant. However, misfortune struck early when his father died unexpectedly and Richards and his older brother took odd jobs to keep the family afloat.

After high school, Richards enrolled in pre-law at Wayne State University, but he found that his real interest was in acting and radio programming. After fighting in World War II, he returned to Detroit and remained active in local theater and broadcasting. In fact, he became part of a local theater troupe and was hired on air as a radio announcer. In the 1950s, Richards moved to New York City hoping to make his mark. He supported himself by working several jobs, doing plays and television spots, and eventually worked as an acting coach. In the late 1950s, friend Sidney Poitier asked Richards to direct a play, A Raisin in the Sun, by a then-unknown black playwright, Lorraine Hansberry. It was Broadway’s first play by a black woman and he was its director.

Always committed to teaching, in the wake of Raisin, Richards began as a drama instructor at New York University School of the Arts and Hunter College. Later, he became director of the National Playwrights’ Conference at the O’Neill Theater and the dean of the prestigious Yale School of Drama and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. It was in these capacities that Richards influenced the careers of many playwrights and actors, including Athol Fugard, August Wilson and James Earl Jones. With Wilson he developed a lasting partnership as Richards went on to direct and produce the first seven of Wilson’s plays to reach Broadway. Richards won a Tony in 1986 for his direction of Wilson’s play, Fences.

Richards was a professor emeritus at the Yale School of Drama and served on several artistic and theatrical boards, including the National Endowment for the Arts. Richards received numerous awards, including several honorary degrees, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Richards died on his birthday on Thursday, June 29, 2006 at 87 years old.

Lloyd Richards was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 11, 2001.

Accession Number

A2001.064

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/11/2001

Last Name

Richards

Maker Category
Middle Name

G.

Organizations
Schools

Sampson Elementary School

McMichael Intermediate School

Northwestern High School

Wayne State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lloyd

Birth City, State, Country

Toronto

HM ID

RIC03

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/29/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Canada

Favorite Food

Lobster, Ribs

Death Date

6/29/2006

Short Description

Stage actor, academic administrator, and theater director Lloyd Richards (1919 - 2006 ) directed A Raisin in the Sun, Broadway's first play by an African American woman. Richards later became director of the National Playwrights' Conference at the O'Neill Theater and the dean of the prestigious Yale School of Drama as well as artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. Richards died on his birthday on Thursday, June 29, 2006.

Employment

National Playwrights Conference

Yale University

Favorite Color

Blue, Forest Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lloyd Richards interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards recounts his family's move from Toronto, Canada to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon his West Indian heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards recalls the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards remembers an influential aunt

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards gives an overview of his schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards recalls his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts his budding interest in theater arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards describes race relations in 1930s Detroit

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards remembers his college prospects

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards explains his family situation

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards recounts his pursuits as a college student

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lloyd Richards recalls his stint in the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lloyd Richards discusses his employment as a social worker

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lloyd Richards remembers his Detroit theater group, the Actors Company

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards discusses his early radio and theater performances

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards reviews his roles with the Actors Company, Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards explains his decision to move to New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards recounts lessons learned on the New York theater circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards discusses his pursuit of the theater arts in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards details his early employment opportunities in New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon his Broadway debut

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recalls his partnership with Sidney Poitier

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards remembers fellow actors, New York, New York, 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards remembers the team behind the Broadway production of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards recalls support for the production of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards discusses the casting of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts the tour of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards explains the collaborations behind 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards reflects upon reviews of 'A Raisin the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards evaluates the appeal of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards remembers Lorraine Hansberry and Philip Rose

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lloyd Richards remembers performances from his career in theater

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lloyd Richards recalls his introduction to playwright August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lloyd Richards recounts his partnership with playwright August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lloyd Richards discusses his involvement with the National Playwrights Conference

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lloyd Richards discusses his role with the Yale Repertory Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lloyd Richards reflects on the course of his career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lloyd Richards considers his legacy