Basil Langton Directed Plays at the Rice Theatre
Basil Langton, a British-born actor, director and theatre manager whose involvement with the Rice Playhouse in Oak Bluffs led to a long relationship with the Island, died on Thursday, May 29, in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 91.
Mr. Langton founded the Traveling Repertory Theatre in World War II, performing in bombed cities, munitions factories and army camps. But Mr. Langton's pacifism damaged his relations with the British theatre world, and after the war he moved permanently to the United States, pursuing a career on the stage and on television.
Among the Broadway plays in which Mr. Langton appeared were The Affair, Camelot and Soldiers. In 1948, he directed a production of The Devil's Disciple.
In 1951 he produced the first Shaw festival in America at the Rice Playhouse; that year he was also a co-founder of the Empire State Music Festival. After his involvement with the Rice Playhouse in 1951 and 1952, Mr. Langton and his family were regular summer residents of Menemsha, sometimes staying at Mrs. C.H. Langmuir's Sunrise Camp, well into the 1970s.
The Vineyard Gazette faithfully followed the successes of Mr. Langston on stage and screen even after the collapse of the Rice Playhouse in 1955, and he maintained a correspondence with the paper's editors, Henry and Betty Hough. In one letter to Mrs. Hough from his apartment in New York city, Mr. Langton wrote: "I stole a few extra days up-Island before re-entering the great white jungle, and like all tiring travelers, I fall more in love with the Vineyard every year -- perhaps one day I shall settle in a corner and grow barnacles."
Mr. Langton was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959 to research Shaw's stagecraft and began recording the memories of those who had worked with Shaw on early productions of his works. In the 1960s, he began photographing artists at work, including Henry Moore, David Hockney, Georgia O'Keefe and John Jiro. His photographs were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
His first marriage, to the dancer Louise Soelberg, ended in divorce, as did his second to the actress Nancy Wickwire. He is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Jessica L. Andrews of Tucson.