Robert Grande Weiss died peacefully at Sarah House on the evening of November 6, 2007, after a noble battle with a recurrence of cancer. His close friends and family were with him in the final months and days. They will remember him as a pillar of strength and inspiration in the Santa Barbara cultural community, one who played a major role in many peoples’ lives and careers.
Born on Staten Island, N.Y., on February 18, 1936, Robert started his professional career as a teenager, acting in the first national touring company of the Broadway play Tea and Sympathy in 1955. He spent most of the 1960s living and working in Europe, especially France, where he worked with acclaimed filmmaker François Reichenbach. Moving to Santa Barbara in 1973, he soon became artistic director for Theatre Paradox and was a co-founder of the two theater groups, Cranks and Calyx. Robert joined Ensemble Theatre Company in 1983 and became artistic director in 1985. Of the more than 100 stage productions he directed in Santa Barbara, 81 were at ETC.
Robert created many new programs for the theater, including Storybook Theatre and Starting Point. He directed the world premiere of John Ford Noonan’s A Critic and His Wife and the first American production of The Farndale Christmas Carol at ETC. As a playwright, he wrote and directed three English adaptations of plays by Molière. He received many directing awards, as well as an Individual Artists Award from the Santa Barbara Arts Fund and an L.A. Backstage West Garland Award for his direction of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. In 2000, he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award for Ensemble Theatre Company’s 25th Anniversary. In 2006, he was named artistic director emeritus at Ensemble Theatre Company, and in 2007 he received a Lifetime Achievement Independent Award for Individual Artistic Excellence. Robert will be greatly missed by the many people who cherished his powerful commitment to the art of theater.
Details about a memorial event will be made public in the coming days.
Donations may be made for a fund being established in Robert’s name for the nurturing, production and performance of progressive theater in Santa Barbara. For details please e-mail email@example.com.