Tony-Winning Director Frank Galati, Known for Ragtime and The Grapes of Wrath, Dies at 79 | Srtalent


Frank Galati
(Photo: Joel Moorman)

Frank Galati, the Tony-winning director, Oscar-nominated writer, actor and icon of Chicago theater, died at the age of 79 on January 2 in Florida. Known for helming Broadway’s Ragtime and The Grapes of Wrath, he helped to transform Chicago’s vibrant theater scene.

“Frank had a profound impact on Steppenwolf, and all of us, over the years,” said Steppenwolf Theatre Co-Artistic Directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis said in a joint statement. “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.”

Born on November 29, 1943 in Highland Park, Illinois, Galati went on to attend Western Illinois University and Northwestern University, where he got his master’s degree and a doctorate in speech. He became a member of Northwestern’s faculty in 1972.

He served as an associate director at the Goodman Theatre from 1986 to 2008 and joined the ensemble of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1985, the same year it won a Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence. He went on to adapt and direct The Grapes of Wrath for the stage. It opened at Royal George Theater in 1988. The following year, it bowed at California’s La Jolla Playhouse and at the Royal National Theatre in London. He won a pair of Tony Awards in 1990 for adapting and directing the show on Broadway. Galati was nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for directing Ragtime. His Broadway credits also include The Pirate Queen and The Glass Menagerie. He was nominated for an Academy Award with Lawrence Kasdan for Best Screenplay for The Accidental Tourist in 1989.

His other notable Chicago productions include The Drawer Boy, in which he starred opposite John Mahoney in 2001, as well as The Tempest, a 2009 production in which he played Prospero. He also directed the world-premiere stage adaptation of Kafka on the Shore, East of Eden and Haruki Murakami’s after the quake at Steppenwolf and The Winter’s Tale, The Visit and Cry, the Beloved Country at the Goodman. Galati helmed productions of La Traviata and Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago and A View from the Bridge at both the Lyric and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Galati was inducted in to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2004 and is the recipient of nine Joseph Jefferson Awards—one for acting, five for directing and three for writing. Other accolades include the League of Chicago Theatres Artistic Leadership Award and an NAACP Theatre Award.

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