Lloyd Richards
National Visionary

June 29, 1919 - June 29, 2006
Born in Toronto, Canada

Tony Award-winning Director of A Raisin in the Sun, Broadway’s First African American Drama

For nearly fifty years, Tony Award winner Lloyd Richards influenced American Theater. First as an actor and later director and teacher, Richards was instrumental in bringing the experiences of African Americans into the theater.

Born in 1919 in Toronto, Canada, Richards moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan where his father hoped to make a better life for his family working for the Ford Motor Company. Tragically, his father died suddenly when Richards was nine years old and soon after his mother lost her eyesight. Richards worked odd jobs to help his family.

At the encouragement of his mother, Richards attended Wayne State University where he originally studied pre-law, but later became a theater student. As a student, Richards worked at the University’s radio guild, acting, directing, and doing sound. He also helped form two theater companies that performed in Detroit. Eager to advance his acting career, he moved to New York City in 1947 and by the late 1950s he had become a well-known actor.

In 1959, Richards helped make history when he directed Lorraine Hansberry's “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway, becoming the first black director of the Great White Way's first black drama, written by its first black playwright. And in 1982, while serving as Director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's annual playwright's conference, Richards met August Wilson, author of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Their meeting turned into one of the most significant director-playwright relationships in modern American theater. Richards directed all six of Wilson’s plays performed on Broadway, two of which won a Pulitzer Prize.

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
From 1979 to 1991, Richards served as dean of Yale University's Drama School and artistic director of its Repertory Theater. As with his other roles, Richards used this opportunity to cultivate new talent. His contributions to the theater are evident in the accomplishments of his students, who have praised him throughout the years. Actor, writer and director Bill Duke stated, "I can say to you quite honestly that without Lloyd Richards, I would not be in this business." Actor Mary Alice, who won a Tony Award for her performance in Fences says, "He is the one, the most important person outside of myself in my career."

Richards passed away on his birthday, June 29, 2006.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara (a playwright), and two sons, Scott and Thomas.


Lloyd Richard's Wikipedia Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/richardslloyd