August 11, 1947 – March 24, 2020
Although he is best known as the director of cult horror films like Re-Animator, Robot Jox, and Space Truckers, Chicagoans remember Stuart Gordon as the founder of the Organic Theatre Company.
A native Chicagoan and graduate of Lane Tech High School, Gordon began his theatre career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he staged an avant-garde production of Peter Pan in which the characters embarked on a psychedelic LSD trip in a scene staged with a light show and naked dancers.
Shortly thereafter, with his wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, he relocated to Chicago and founded the Organic Theatre Company. With the company through the 1970s to early '80s, he produced and directed thirty-seven plays, among them, the world premieres of The Warp Trilogy, David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Bleacher Bums, E/R Emergency Room, and a two-part adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Warp, which moved to Broadway for a brief stint after its Organic success, was influential according to the theater critic, Richard Christiansen, for anticipating Star Wars and giving rise to more companies in Chicago’s burgeoning, experimental Off-Loop theater scene. Gordon's 1973 production of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” (which 25 years later he made into a movie) featured an ensemble cast that included Dennis Franz, Meshach Taylor, and Joe Mantegna. Other work with Mamet and Mantegna also proved successful.
As former Chicago Tribune theatre critic Linda Winer recalls in a tribute to Gordon, “For those of us who experienced—sometimes proudly survived—Gordon’s visceral, wildly original theatre productions…he was the force that first defined the untamable energy [of Chicago theatre]. [Nothing comes close] to my unforgettable memory of The Game Show, a shock I had in 1969, sometime around my introduction as a fledgling critic at the Chicago Tribune. This was the show’s Chicago premiere and Gordon’s debut in his hometown, which meant we had no guarantee that this would be merely a “performance” to be repeated the following night. It was, to this date, the scariest experience I ever had in the theatre.”
Gordon passed away in Van Nuys, CA due to multiple organ failure. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, daughters Suzanna, Jillian and Margaret Gordon, four grandchildren and his brother, David George Gordon.