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Linda Purl remembers Edgar Rosenblum

May 3, 2010

On April 23, I posted a notice of the passing of Edgar Rosenblum, Executive Director of the California International Theatre Festival in Calabasas, who died of a heart attack on Sunday, April 18. He was 78. Edgar was famously known for steering the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, to prominence onto the American theatre landscape. But he did more than that.

Linda Purl

Actress, singer, and CITFestival Director, Linda Purl, today sent me a copy of a remembrance she wrote of Edgar and graciously allowed me to share it with you.

In 72 hours I was to go to the first think tank for the California International Theatre Festival. A high powered group of CEOs and CFOs had agreed to attend and [Center Theatre Group Artistic Director] Michael Ritchie was going to be our primary voice of experience for the two day brainstorm. The phone rang, it was Michael, in severe pain with a back gone out. He couldn’t make it to the bathroom much less onto the flight from London. 

I had not spoken to Edgar at that point in 6 years…but I called, asked with baited breath if he would fly out to be our guiding wisdom. He said “Yes.” That was a word, I came to learn, he said often and in ways large to small. He said “yes” to life, to possibilities, to friends and to the great big world of the theatre. 

Once plans for the Festival were going forward, we needed an Executive Director. Of course the best possible person for the Founding post was Edgar, who we knew would decline the position. Why, after all would he with his unparalleled accomplishments agree to work with something on the other side of the country that only existed on paper? We asked, and Edgar said “Yes.”

I’ve spoken to Edgar either by phone or email virtually everyday for the past five years. I still talk to him. Once the news of his untimely passing began to sink in, how, I wonder will we possibly manage without him?  Then the first test came: A sticky wicket negotiation that normally would have been Edgar’s to handle. I asked myself, “What would Edgar do?” The common ground for every decision or negotiation, I realized, had been that he was fair, honest and on the high road.  By example, he built an institutional muscle in me that enables me now to hold fair but firm in negotiations. From a wellspring of joy from, passion for, and belief in the theatre arts, he was a master alchemist in translating dreams into reality with calm, steady, unwavering steps forward. Always forward. 

Two weeks before his passing, Edgar came out to LA for a Board meeting. He arrived at the house and, as was his habit, he called Cornelia to let her know of his safe arrival. Each time he was out in LA without her, he would call every night. No matter even at the end of a long day. dinner could wait; he would talk to Cornelia first. Somewhere in the course of daily conversation with the Festival team would be a compliment to his bride: how smart she was, how wonderful a designer. Also about Jessie: how successful, how smart, how in awe of her considerable accomplishments he was. Thank you Cornelia and Jessie for sharing your beloved Edgar with us. It was and continues to be a privilege beyond measure. 

That night I’d asked Edgar to officially join our effort, I sat next to him and Cornelia at the theatre for a production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. As the lights dimmed, and even after the hundreds of evenings he’d spent in the theatre, he leaned forward in eager anticipation of the performance that was about to begin. He loved the world of theatre and Lord knows the world of theatre loved him.


One Comment leave one →
  1. judi davidson permalink
    May 3, 2010 3:53 pm

    What a beautiful remembrance. And it captures the spirit of Edgar perfectly

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