SEPTEMBER 24: Cheryl Crawford (1902-1986)

The pioneering Broadway producer
and director, Cheryl Crawford, was born on this day in 1902. Cheryl is most
well-known in the theater world for her productions of Brigadoon and Awake and Sing!

Cheryl pictured with her colleagues Lee Strasberg (middle) and Harold Clurman (right), with whom she opened the Group Theater with. Even after her death, Cheryl’s craft and expertise lived on in the work of the artists she mentored such as Elia Kazan, Ingrid Bergman, Tallulah Bankhead, and many more (x).

Born on September 24, 1902, Cheryl
Crawford was raised in Akron, Ohio. She left home after finishing high school to
attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After finishing college, she packed up once again and moved to the center of the theater world –
New York City. She started out stage directing small time productions and even
did a bit of acting herself with the Theater Guild, and she was promoted to be
the group’s casting director in 1929. In 1931, she left the Theater Guild and
founded Group Theater along with her friends Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman.
Group Theater became incredibly influential in spreading the idea of method
acting, as well as ushering in a new trend of politically charged plays and
musicals. After the Group became an established organization, Cheryl left to
become an independent producer despite the naysayers who said that a woman
could never succeed as an independent.

Her life partner was Ruth Norman,
a successful cookbook author who she lived in New York City with for the
majority of her life. Cheryl’s biographer and author of A Gambler’s Instinct: The Story of Broadway Producer Cheryl Crawford,
Milly S. Barranger, writes that Cheryl was “taciturn” and went about life as a
lesbian “undisguised in her tailored clothes, her hair style, her masculine
tone of voice, and her circle of women friends.” After living an unapologetic
life with a trailblazing career, Cheryl passed away on October 7, 1986 from
injuries from a fall.

-LC

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