Partner Mark Bennett

Queer Places:
Harvard University (Ivy League), 2 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Yale University (Ivy League), 38 Hillhouse Ave, New Haven, CT 06520
Green-Wood Cemetery Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA

Paul Francis Schmidt (January 29, 1934 – February 19, 1999) was an American translator, poet, playwright, and essayist. He wrote three plays. He won the Helen Hayes Award, and Kesselring Award for best play for Black Sea Follies. He taught at the Yale School of Drama. He was married to Stockard Channing.

As a translator, poet, scholar, and sometime actor, Schmidt enjoyed a distinguished theatrical career that bridged the classic and the avant-garde repertoires. If translation is a form of authorship, then he was the most frequently produced writer at the ART in recent years, having rendered the texts for productions of Bertolt Brecht's In the Jungle of Cities (from German), Racine's Phaedra (French), and Euripides's The Bacchae (Greek), as well as the current Ivanov (Russian). "He was a genuine man of the theater," recalled artistic director Robert Brustein. "And his collaborations with directors were instrumental in helping us to re-vision these classical works."

Liz Diamond directed three Schmidt translations, the ART Phaedra and two productions at the Yale Repertory Theatre. "He never translated from a language that he didn't know the way a poet knows language," she pointed out. "He understood what it meant for words to live inside an actor's body, what it meant for language to be embodied in space by a living breathing performer."

Schmidt also collaborated with several of the foremost experimental directors of the past generation. He translated Zangezi, by the little-known Russian poet Velemir Khlebnikov, for a 1986 production directed by Peter Sellars. He prepared the text of Jean Genet's The Screens for JoAnne Akalaitis's 1989 production at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. He provided the translation of Chekhov's Three Sisters that was the point of departure for the Wooster Group's 1990 theater piece Brace Up! And in 1995, he wrote the libretto for Alice, Robert Wilson's treatment of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with music by Tom Waits.

by Robert Giard

Born in Brooklyn on January 29, 1934, Paul Francis Schmidt graduated from Colgate in 1955 and went to Harvard to pursue graduate work in Slavic literature. During his years in Cambridge, he balanced scholarly pursuits with a passion for theater that led to his involvement with a legendary circle of friends who performed at the Agassiz Theatre in the 1960s. This group included Kathryn Walker, Lindsay Crouse, Tommy Lee Jones, John Lithgow, the director and writer Tim Mayer, and Stockard Channing (to whom Schmidt was married for seven years).

Schmidt went on to teach Slavic languages and literature at the University of Texas at Austin from 1967 to 1976. In the late 1970s, he returned to the Northeast to concentrate on theater work and translation projects, including a three-volume edition of the complete works of Khlebnikov. His translations of Chekhov's plays were published in 1997 to great acclaim. Carey Perloff, artistic director of the Actors Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where two of Schmidt's Chekhovs have been produced, prizes their stageworthiness. "He was himself a wonderful actor and had a clear sense of what is actable. It bothered him that Chekhov was treated for so long like a 19th-century English playwright, and he wasn't willing to `Victorian-up' the translation. For him, Chekhov was modern."

Paul Schmidt died at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center at 65. The cause of death was complications of AIDS. He was survived by his friend Mark Bennett, the New York Times reported. At commemorative services in New York in April 1999 and in Cambridge in June 1999, friends and family gathered to celebrate Schmidt's particular grace, his passion for literature, languages, and life, and his genteel and noble spirit. Those qualities live on in his landmark translations.

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