Shauneille Perry Ryder, pioneering theater director, dies at 92

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She has won at least two Audelco Awards from the Audience Development Committee, which honors black theater and artists, and in 2019 received the Lloyd Richards Director’s Award from the National Black Theater Festival, in Winston-Salem, Carolina du Nord, named after the Tony-winning director. many plays by August Wilson.

Shauneille Gantt Perry was born on July 26, 1929 in Chicago. His father, Graham, was one of the first black assistant attorneys general in Illinois; his mother, Pearl (Gantt) Perry, was a pioneering black journalist in Chicago. Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote “A Raisin the Sun,” was one of Shauneille’s cousins.

While studying at Howard University – where she earned a bachelor’s degree in drama in 1950 – Ms Ryder Perry was part of a student theater troupe, the Howard Players, which performed Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ and Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” while touring Scandinavia. at the invitation of the Norwegian government. “We were the only black company to visit these wonderful countries,” she told The Record of Hackensack, NJ, in 1971.

She received an MFA in 1952 from the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now part of DePaul University). As a Fulbright scholar in 1954, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Unhappy with the program, however (“they were still doing ‘Cleopatra’,” she says), she transferred to the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art.

Back in Chicago, she began acting – she was in a summer play, “Mamba’s Daughters”, with Ethel Waters – while writing for the black newspaper The Chicago Defender. In 1959, on a trip to Paris she had won in an Ebony magazine essay contest, she met author Richard Wright, who she recalled asking her, “They keep lynching people in the USA ?”

“I remember telling him, ‘They do things a little different today,'” she told The Times in 1971. But the next day she read the story of a black man who had was accused of rape and forcibly taken to a prison cell; his body was later found floating in a river. “I kept wondering,” she said, “What is this man saying about my analysis of things?”

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