- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Feb. 23—Barbara Field, one of the founders of Twin Cities-based Playwrights' Center, died Feb. 21, just a few days before her 88th birthday, following complications from a heart condition.
A prolific playwright, Field's plays were staged across the United States, Canada and Europe, according to the Playwrights' Center. She was playwright-in-resident at the Guthrie Theater from 1974 to 1981. Her work at the Guthrie included translations ("Marriage" from Gogol and "Monsieur de Moliere" from Bulgakov) and adaptations from novels ("Camille" from Dumas and "Great Expectations" by Dickens, which was commissioned by the Seattle Children's Theater and later played at the Guthrie and traveled the country on an eight-month tour.)
Most recently, the Guthrie staged a revival of her play "Playing With Fire," a response to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," during its 2018-19 season.
A piece of Field's work that has been seen by generations of theatergoers was her adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" for the Guthrie. She adapted the tale for the stage in 1975 and did another adaptation in 1996. That ran until 10 years ago.
Field was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but moved to Atlantic City, where she spent much of her childhood. "It fostered her love of the Atlantic Ocean — water in general — which has been central to her heart forever ... even woven throughout some of her plays," said Jeremy Cohen, Playwrights' Center producing artistic director. She had been living in St. Louis Park for many years before her death.
Field was a trailblazer in the theater, Cohen said, a strong, female presence in a field generally dominated by men. In 1971, she with a fellow group of University of Minnesota students, including Greg Almquist, Erik Brogger, Tom Dunn, Gar Hildenbrand, and Jon Jackoway, founded the Playwrights' Center as a home for writers and theater artists to gather and share work.
"As the only female founder, she was a staunch advocate for the Playwrights' Center to find new and diverse playwriting voices and welcome them into the community," according to a statement from the center.
Field adapted "The Boxcar Children" and Philip Pullman's "I Was a Rat!" for the Seattle Children's Theater. Her adaptation of "Dreams in the Golden Country" was performed at the Kennedy Center and on a national tour. Her adaptation of "Scaramouche" was performed at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre. Her original work includes "Neutral Countries," first produced at the Actors Theater of Louisville's Humana Festival in 1983, where it was named Best American Play; "Coming of Age" for the Indiana Rep; "Quality Time" for the Pennsylvania Stage Company; "Boundary Waters" for California's South Coast Rep (which won a 1992 DramaLogue Award); and "Off the Ice" for the Repertory Theater of St. Louis.
She also wrote one original opera libretto, "Rosina" (with composer Hiram Titus), which was commissioned and produced by the Minnesota Opera.
Field was a lifetime core writer and former board member at the Playwrights' Center.
"We have all benefited from her vision and steadfast commitment to the art of storytelling," Cohen said. "Throughout my tenure here, Barbara's warmth, laughter, and nurturing spirit abounded during the days at the Center. She would come back to cheer on the new writers. She was adamant about making room for a new generation of diverse voices. Her philosophy and guidance are reflected in the beliefs of the Playwrights' Center to this day."
Field's family, in partnership with the Playwrights' Center, have announced The Barbara Field Memorial Fund to support the development of new and diverse playwriting voices. There's no information on services at this time, but when it's available, it will be posted on the Playwrights' Center website, pwcenter.org. People are also asked to leave a story or remembrance about Field or make a gift to the memorial fund at the website.
Field is survived by her children, Mia and Jim; and three grandchildren, Aaron, Ethan and Henry.