Josephine Abady
(Photo: David Jennings)
Josephine Abady
(Photo: David Jennings)
Josephine Abady, the stage director and former Circle in the Square co-artistic director, died on Saturday of breast cancer. She was was 52.

Abady was most recently in the public eye as resident director of the "Food For Thought" series of lunchtime play readings at the National Arts Club. In her last year of life, the New York-based Abady traveled to TheatreVirginia in Richmond, her hometown, to direct a production of Wit, the Pulitzer-winning Margaret Edson play about a woman dying of ovarian cancer. Of deciding to take on that production, Abady (who had battled with her illness for five years) said in an interview with TheatreVirginia's John Porter: "When anyone asks me if I've seen Wit, I'd say, 'I've lived Wit, thank you, I don't need to see it.'" Asked if her direction of the play was the first time she'd addressed her illness artistically, Edson answered, "Yes. This is the first time I've had a chance to address it outside the hospital."

At Circle in the Square, which she co-helmed with Theodore Mann during the company's final years, Abady directed a revival of Bus Stop starring Billy Crudup and Mary-Louise Parker and produced a Tony-nominated revival of The Rose Tattoo starring Mercedes Ruehl. When she moved beyond her original specialty of revivals of American classics, Abady did not always please; she was dismissed as artistic director at the Cleveland Playhouse by a board of directors that seemed to object to her focus on African-American and female authors. But Abady was always one for pushing boundaries, as was more than evident by her production in Volgograd of A Streetcar Named Desire as performed by a Russian theater company called the New Experimental Theatre.

There is much more on Abady's list of accomplishments. She headed the theater program at Hampshire College, part of an academic career that also included a stint at Bennington College in Vermont; she was artistic director of the Berkshire Theater Festival for nine years; she directed Ed Asner and Madeline Kahn in Born Yesterday, first in Cleveland and then on Broadway; she brought the Cleveland production of House of Blue Leaves to the Czech Republic; and she directed a film about her mother called To Catch a Tiger, written by her husband and starring her sister, in 1994.

Abady was a graduate of Syracuse University and held an MFA from Florida State University. She is survived by her husband, Michael Krawitz; her brother, Samuel Abady; and her sister, actress Caroline Aaaron.