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Alvin Epstein, Originator of Roles by Beckett, Dies at 93

Epstein's career in New York spanned nearly 60 years.

Alvin Epstein has died at the age of 93.
(© Joseph Marzullo)

Alvin Epstein, the well-regarded classical actor who originated the role of Lucky in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, has died at the age of 93. The cause, according to the New York Times, was pneumonia.

Born in the Bronx on May 14, 1925, Epstein's career onstage spanned nearly 60 years from his first appearance, opposite mime Marcel Marceau in 1955, to his final regular performance, in Richard Nelson's Nikolai and the Others at Lincoln Center Theater in 2013.

In between, Epstein's illustrious career found him playing the Fool to Orson Welles' wheelchair-bound Lear at New York City Center in 1956, originating the role of Clov in Beckett's Endgame in 1958, serving as a founding member and associate director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, spending two seasons as artistic director of the Guthrie Theatre, and directing more than 20 productions at Boston's American Repertory Theater (where he also acted in more than 50 shows).

Rarely lacking for work, Epstein had been a steady presence on off-Broadway's stages in recent years; playing Polonius to Christian Camargo's Hamlet in 2009; Fiers to Dianne Wiest's Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard in 2011; and Corbaccio, "the Crow," in Volpone at the Red Bull Theater in 2012. Over the course of his career, he actually managed to play all three male roles in Endgame, as well as directed a production in 1984.

Of all his roles, it was King Lear, which he played at La MaMa in 2006, that meant the most. "It's a role that I wish I were able to play again and again and again," he told TheaterMania in 2013. "It's the kind of role that can take that repetition and every time you experience it at a different age it's going to be different, and presumably more fulfilling to do it again."


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