Frank Galati (1943-2023)
Highland Park native, longtime Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member, actor, director, adaptor and educator, and inductee into the Theater Hall of Fame – Frank Galati has died at the age of 79 from complications from cancer.
Galati was a towering figure in Chicago-area theater for decades, working with the Goodman and Steppenwolf theaters and other houses there and teaching at Northwestern University, where, at the School of Communication, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965, a master’s in 1967 and a doctorate in 1971. One of Galati’s earliest notices resulted from his appearance in a Northwestern faculty and student talent show in 1964. In 1976, he directed “The Mother of Us All,” for the Chicago Opera Theater - the Virgil Thomson opera for which Gertrude Stein wrote the libretto.
For the Forum Theater in 1973, he adapted “Boss,” the Chicago columnist Mike Royko’s book about Richard J. Daley, the city’s longtime mayor, into a musical, for which he also wrote the lyrics; it won a Joseph Jefferson Award for best new play. Other Jeffs followed, with Mr. Galati winning for directing, writing and acting.
Galati joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 1985, and went on to win two Tony Awards in 1990 for his adaptation and direction of Steppenwolf's pivotal production of ”The Grapes of Wrath” on Broadway.
During his illustrious career, Mr. Galati was also nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for directing the musical “Ragtime”. Although Galati is known primarily as a director of epic plays and musicals (Steppenwolf's “Homebody/Kabul”, “Broadway's Ragtime”), he was an equally adept actor (Steppenwolf's “The Drawer Boy”, “The Tempest”) and adaptor (Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for “The Accidental Tourist”, shared with Lawrence Kasdan). Galati directed his adaptations of Murakami's "after the quake” (*sic* Murakami’s only demand of Galati was that the title be rendered in lowercase letters) and “Kafka on the Shore” in 2008 at Steppenwolf, along with his adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's “The March” in 2012. His productions at The Goodman Theatre, where he was an associate director from 1986-2008, include “The Visit”, “She Always Said Pablo”, “The Winter's Tale”, “The Good Person of Setzuan” and “Cry the Beloved Country”. He was also an artistic associate at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida. Most recently, he directed Asolo Rep's 2022 world premiere musical “Knoxville”, which he adapted from James Agee's novel A Death in the Family. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Galati was also a professor emeritus in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.
“I’m honored, I’m humbled, I’m grateful,” Galati said in his 2022 Theater Hall of Fame acceptance speech, “but I cannot accept this honor for myself. Rather, I dedicate this honor to my students, and to every single actor I have been inspired by and learned from. The rehearsal hall is where I have spent the happiest hours of my life.”
Frank Joseph Galati was born in Highland Park IL, and grew up in Northbrook IL. He is survived by his husband Peter Amster, partner of 52 years and husband since 2017, and his sister, Franny Clarkson.