Innovative Theater Director George Ferencz Dies at 74

Ferencz is best known for his productions of works by Eugene O’Neill, Sam Shepard, and Amiri Baraka.

Off-Broadway theater director George Ferencz has died at 74.
Off-Broadway theater director George Ferencz has died at 74.
(© Sally Lesser)

George Ferencz, a longtime off-Broadway director and former resident director at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, died on September 14 following an extended illness. He was 74. According to a Deadline report, Ferencz's death was announced on September 23 by his wife and collaborator, costumer designer Sally Lesser.

The eldest of six siblings, Ferencz was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon moving to New York in 1970, he began studying directing with Gene Frankel, and later Carl Weber. In 1975, he co-founded the Impossible Ragtime Theatre with Ted Story, Pam Mitchell, and Cynthia Crane, and the following year, he rose to prominence with his innovative productions of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape and Dynamo.

Ferencz served as resident director at La MaMa from 1982-2008, and during his career, directed works by Sam Shepard, Amiri Baraka, Aishah Rahman, among others. He also enjoyed a collaborative partnership with jazz drummer and composer Max Roach, with whom he crafted Shepard Sets, three Shepard plays in rolling rep: Angel City, Back Bog Beast Bait, and Suicide in B Flat. His work extended to a variety of off-Broadway theater companies, including Theater for the New City, INTAR (where he co-founded the Hispanic American Music Theatre Lab with Tito Puente), and Woodie King's New Federal Theatre. Ferencz additionally founded the performance group, The Experimentals, in 2010.

Ferencz is survived by his wife and their son Jack Ferencz.