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Frank Galati, Acclaimed Theater Artist, Dies at 79

Frank Galati

Galati, who was gay, was a Tony-winner and a titan of Chicago and Broadway theater.

Frank Galati, a gay man who was a titan of Chicago and Broadway theater, has died at age 79.

A writer, director, and actor, Galati died Monday night, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He won Tony Awards in 1990 for Best Play and Best Director for adapting John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath and directing it on Broadway; the production originated at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre. He was one of many artists who put Steppenwolf and another Chicago theater, the Goodman, on the map with their innovative material and wealth of talent, including actors John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Cole, John Mahoney, and Gary Sinise.

"Frank had a profound impact on Steppenwolf, and all of us, over the years," said a joint statement from Steppenwolf's co-artistic directors, Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis. "For some, he was a teacher, mentor, director, adaptor, writer, fellow actor, and visionary. Regardless of the relationship, Frank always made others feel cared for, valued, and inspired in his ever-generous, joyful and compassionate presence."

Galati was Tony-nominated as Best Director in 1998 for Ragtime, a musical adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel. He was Oscar-nominated, along with Lawrence Kasdan, for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1988 film The Accidental Tourist, based on a novel by Anne Tyler. In 2012, he adapted another Doctorow novel, The March, for the stage and directed it at Steppenwolf. He also directed operas in Chicago and New York and taught theater at Northwestern University.

Galati, a Chicago-area native, joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 1985 and became associate director at the Goodman the next year, working with both theaters for many years, the Sun-Times notes. Among his accomplishments were starring opposite Mahoney in The Drawer Boy in 2001 and giving what the paper called "an unforgettable performance" as Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest in 2009. In 1995 at Steppenwolf, he directed a production of the medieval morality play Everyman that featured the Windy City Gay Chorus performing Gregorian chant.

Sinise gave a statement to the Sun-Times saying Galati was a "brilliant writer, director and actor, a tremendous talent, and while his loss will be felt with sadness by all of us, his legacy of great work and his genuine kindness and generosity as a wonderful person will live on and on."

Terry Kinney, who directed Galati's adaptation of Steinbeck's East of Eden at Steppenwolf in 2015 and had acted in The Grapes of Wrath, also offered praise for his longtime colleague. "This is just unbearable," Kinney told the paper while crying. "But love is stronger than death. And he had so much love. He endorsed people into being better. He didn't offer criticism. He knew criticism was the enemy of creating things. ... At the end of a scene he was directing, even if it was a very long scene, where most directors would have a long critique or a series of fixes, [Frank] would just giggle and tell the actors, 'I love it. Let's do it again from the top. You're gonna find it through practicing.'"

Galati was a member of the Theater Hall of Fame and the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. He received nine Joseph Jefferson Awards, which are bestowed on Chicago theater, the League of Chicago Theatres Artistic Leadership Award, and an NAACP Theatre Award, among other prizes.

Galati's survivors include his husband, Peter Amster, and a sister, Frannie Galati Clarkson.

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