Tina Howe, the celebrated playwright known for her Tony-nominated works and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, passed away at the age of 85. Her most well-known plays, including “Coastal Disturbances,” “Painting Churches,” and “Pride’s Crossing,” were performed at prestigious theaters such as the Public Theater, the Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center Theater. Throughout her career, Howe received numerous accolades and awards for her contributions to American theater.
Born on November 21, 1937, in New York, Tina Howe attended Sarah Lawrence College, Teacher’s College at Columbia University, and Chicago Teachers College. She also studied Philosophy at Sorbonne University in Paris. Her passion for playwriting took hold in the late 1960s when her first full-length play, “The Nest,” premiered off-Broadway at the Mercury Theater in April 1970.
Howe found success in the 1980s with her breakthrough play, “Painting Churches,” which earned her an Obie Award for Best New American Play in 1981. The play went on to be produced on Broadway in 1983 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1986, she collaborated with Second Stage once again for the production of “Coastal Disturbances,” featuring renowned actors Annette Bening and Tim Daly. This play moved to Broadway in 1987 and received the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play, while Howe herself received a Tony nomination.
In 1997, Lincoln Center Theater produced the New York premiere of Howe’s play, “Pride’s Crossing,” at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. After a successful run at the Old Globe, the play was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1998 and won the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Play.
Howe’s significant contributions to American theater led to her induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2017. Over the course of her four-decade career, she received several prestigious grants and fellowships, including a Rockefeller Grant, two N.E.A. Fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She also received the Sidney Kingsley Award, the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. In 2015, she was honored with PEN’s Master American Playwright award.
Howe’s plays can be found in various anthologies and publications, including “Coastal Disturbances: Four Plays by Tina Howe” and “Birth and After Birth and Other Plays: A Marriage Cycle.” In addition to her own works, she also translated Ionesco’s plays “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson” and wrote “Shrinking Violets and Towering Tiger Lilies: Seven Brief Plays about Women in Distress.” Her last collection of short one-act plays, “Where Women Go,” was published in 2021. Several books have been dedicated to Howe’s life and work, including the 2014 publication “Howe in an Hour,” edited by Judith Barlow.
In addition to her successful career as a playwright, Howe also served on the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1990 and taught at prestigious institutions such as NYU, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, UCLA, and Hunter College. In 2010, she launched the Rita and Burton Goldberg MFA in Playwriting as Playwright-in-Residence.
Tina Howe is survived by her two children, Eben and Dara, their spouses Cate and Joshua, and her three grandchildren. Sadly, her husband of 61 years, Norman Levy, passed away the previous year, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in American theater. Tina Howe’s distinct voice and innovative storytelling will continue to inspire and captivate audiences for generations to come.