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Robert Eugene Crain
as we remember him
article from Commercial Appeal January 23 2007
Gene Crain, 79, admired and inspired
As one of the most prolific stage directors in Memphis theater during the 1970s and '80s, Gene Crain was admired by actors and critics for his productions of classic dramas, and later, for championing new plays and emerging playwrights.
Mr. Crain, a native Memphian, died Sunday at Quince Nursing and Rehabilitation Center after a long illness. He was 79.The best testimony to the legacy of Robert Eugene Crain is the accomplishments of the many students he inspired as an English and drama teacher and then assistant principal of White Station High School.
Among them was Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates, who credits Mr. Crain with encouraging her to pursue a theater career. He also taught Alan Lightman, renowned author of "Einstein's Dreams."
"He helped me find my soul as an actor," said another former student, Julia "Cookie" Ewing, now chairwoman of the Rhodes College theater department. "He was my first real acting teacher. In all my experiences of him directing me, I always felt it was possible to understand the truth of a part."
Mr. Crain retired from Memphis City Schools in 1984. Four years later, he received the Eugart W. Yerian Award for distinguished lifetime service to Memphis theater. He was also elected to the Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League Hall of Fame in 1992.
Playhouse on the Square's executive producer, Jackie Nichols, said Mr. Crain was one of the company's first directors in 1969. He had more than 30 Circuit Playhouse shows under his belt and scores more at local college and community theaters.
"Actors loved working with Gene," Nichols said.
In the early 1990s, he co-founded the small theater company Playwrights' Forum, which presented new plays. Actress Laurie Cook McIntosh, a Playwrights' Forum board member and former student of Mr. Crain, said he directed his final show "Heart Strings" from a wheelchair.
Mr. Crain leaves a sister, Katherine Martin of Fayette, Ala., and two brothers, James Crain of Southaven and Charles Crain of Cordova.
The theater community will host a memorial tribute Monday, Feb. 5 at TheatreWorks, 2085 Monroe), beginning at 6 p.m.