Theater Critic and Playwright Michael Feingold Has Died at 77
Feingold was a regular TheaterMania contributor from 2013-2017.
Longtime New York theater critic Michael Feingold died on Monday, November 21, at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, following an ongoing battle with aortic valve disease. He was 77. The news was confirmed by fellow critic Michael Sommers, who was with Feingold when he died.
A graduate of Columbia University and the Yale School of Drama, Feingold began writing theater criticism for The Village Voice in 1971, serving as Chief Critic from 1983 to 2013. The legendary alt weekly gave Feingold a platform to not only offer his panoramic critiques of shows on and off-Broadway, but also allowed him to tacitly respond to reviews in daily newspapers, which were often published several days before.
Following his departure from the Voice in 2013, Feingold began writing a monthly two-part column for TheaterMania called "Thinking About Theater," which freed him from the duty of reviewing the latest productions and allowed him to comment on the state of the theater, drawing on the knowledge he accumulated by spending four decades on the aisle.
In 2015, he won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for "Thinking About Theater," joining a very small group of two-time winners (his first win was for his Voice reviews in the 1995-96 season). All of Feingold's columns for TheaterMania can still be read here.
As critics often do, Feingold also participated in the process of granting awards to artists, serving as a judge for the Obie Awards for 31 seasons. He chaired the judges' panel from 2006 to 2011, and returned to the role from 2012 to 14. This was a time that saw Obies go to Lynn Nottage, Ayad Akhtar, Annie Baker, and Michael Friedman, among many others. Feingold was recognized by the Obies in 2020 with a special citation, "... for his work as a leading voice in theater criticism, his advocacy on behalf of off and off-off-Broadway, and for his masterful leadership of the Obie Awards."
Feingold was also an artist himself, working as a playwright, translator, and dramaturg. His translation of the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill collaboration Happy End was seen on Broadway in 1977 in a production starring Christopher Lloyd and Meryl Streep. As translator, Feingold received two Tony nominations that year (Book and Score), losing both to Annie.
He contributed other English translations of Brecht, including Threepenny Opera, and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Feingold's translation of Mahagonny can be heard on DVDs of the Madrid Opera and LA Opera productions. The latter, which starred Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone under the direction of John Doyle, won Classical Grammy Awards for Best Classical Recording and Best Opera Recording — the first time either award has been given to a work sung in translation.
I will always remember him as a gentleman on the aisle and a valuable source of perspective in meetings of the New York Drama Critics' Circle. He was unfailingly encouraging to his younger colleagues, even if one could only respond in awe to his encyclopedic knowledge of the stage.