Israel Horovitz, Off-Broadway Playwright With Decades of Sexual Abuse Allegations, Dies at 81

Horovitz co-founded Gloucester Stage Company, and was the author of works like ”Line”.

Israel Horovitz
Israel Horovitz
(© Tristan Fuge)

Israel Horovitz, a prolific off-Broadway playwright with a decades-long list of sexual abuse allegations leveled against him, has died of cancer at the age of 81.

In 1979, Horovitz co-founded the Massachusetts-based Gloucester Stage Company, a theater that bills itself as a "safe harbor for playwrights and new plays." Horovitz allegedly compromised that safe harbor for some female actors and staffers; in 1993, 10 women came forward in an exposé in the Boston Phoenix, accusing Horovitz, then artistic director, of sexual harassment and assault dating back to the mid-1980s. Those allegations were dismissed by the board of directors at the time, with then-president Barry Y. Weiner stating "people throw the charge around like manhole covers," and calling some of his accusers "tightly wound."

Horovitz continued in his position until 2006, when he stepped down as artistic director. He remained on the theater's board, ex officio, and held the position of artistic director emeritus, until 2017, when he resigned and the theater severed all ties with him, after nine women came forward to speak on the record about their experiences in a New York Times story.

At that time, Elizabeth Neumeier, the current president of Gloucester stage's board, said in a statement, "I apologize to the brave women who came forward in 1992 and 1993 but were not listened to." Horovitz did not entirely deny the allegations to the Times, apologizing "to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions," though stating he had "a different memory of some of these events."

Horovitz was the author of more than 70 plays, including The Indian Wants the Bronx, which gave Al Pacino his start as an actor, the 1991 Broadway two-hander Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, and the one-act Line, which ran for 43 years, 1974-2018, at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre.

Among his survivors are his son, Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, who told the Times in 2017, "I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them."