Deaths elsewhere

April 06, 2010

CRAIG NOEL, 94

San Diego theater figure

Craig Noel, the founding director of San Diego's Old Globe who established a vital regional community theater that eventually became a Tony Award-winning font of dramatic productions bound for Broadway, has died. He was 94.

Noel, who began his career as an actor before becoming a director and producer, died of natural causes Saturday at his home in San Diego, the Old Globe announced.

He had been a fixture at the Globe since 1937, when as a 22-year-old actor he joined the playhouse troupe and landed a part in "The Distaff Side." He directed his first play at the theater in 1939, Edwin Justus Mayer's "Firebrand."

Apart from a break for military service in World War II and a brief stab at a Hollywood film career, Noel spent nearly his entire professional life at the theater set among the eucalyptus groves of San Diego's Balboa Park. He was named resident director in 1947, and even though he turned over the position of artistic director to Jack O'Brien, his hand-picked successor, in 1982, he never relinquished his leadership role. He stayed on as executive director, executive producer and, finally, founding director.

In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush.

"It seems impossible to contemplate a landscape without Craig Noel in it," O'Brien said in statement. "He was my benign father. . . . He led by witty, loving example - never needlessly confronting, never challenging, always nurturing, always supportive and always, always charmingly funny. That is not an easy posture to maintain in our industry. He always said of the Globe that it was his cathedral."

Noel, who never married, has no immediate survivors. A memorial service is pending at the Old Globe.

- Tribune Newspapers

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