“Every playwright yearns to be a critic. Every critic yearns to be a playwright. Every theatre teacher yearns to be a director. I am not a director, but have otherwise tried to satisfy my yearnings–without having quite succeeded.”
From his obituary on the CUNY-Lehman College Website
Remembering Albert Bermel: Longtime Lehman Professor, Author, and Theatre Critic
Albert Bermel, who chaired Lehman’s Speech and Theatre Department from 1988-1994 and was a celebrated author and theater critic, passed away on October 5, 2013. He was 85.
When Bermel joined the Lehman faculty in 1970, he was a respected theatre critic for The New Leader and a published playwright, author, and translator of classical works for the modern theater.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Bermel taught theatre and film for many years at Columbia University and Yale University. In addition to teaching at Lehman, he served on the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center. Bermel authored many original plays, nine of which were published as recently as 2012 in a volume entitled THROMBO and Other Plays.
Throughout his career Bermel received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Award for playwriting and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In the U.S., his work and translations received performances by the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA; the Phoenix Theatre, Cocteau Repertory Theatre, La Mama, and New Federal Theatre in New York; the Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.; and Guthrie Theatre in Minnesota. His works were also produced throughout Europe.
His translations included works by Beaumarchais, Cocteau, Corneille, Courteline, Jarry, Labiche, the prize-winning French-Canadian author Jacques Languirand, and Molière. His translation of Carlo Gozzi’s The Green Bird was performed on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. The American Repertory Theatre production of Gozzi’s King Stag, in Bermel’s translation, toured worldwide to cities as diverse as Venice, Madrid, Tokyo, Taipei, and Moscow.
His critical works included Molière’s Theatrical Bounty (1990); Carlo Gozzi: Five Tales for the Theatre (1989, co-translated by Ted Emery); Shakespeare at the Moment: Playing the Comedies (2000); Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty (1977); and the companion volumes Contradictory Characters (1973) and Comic Agony (1993).
His essays appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, The Nation, as well as numerous specialized theatre journals including The Independent Shavian, Yale/Theatre and The Eugene O’Neill Newsletter.
His writing did not stop in retirement, as Lehman Today discovered after catching up with him in 2010. In recent years, Bermel worked on a memoir of his childhood as an evacuee in England during World War II, a musical version of Moliere’s The Miser, and Give & Grab, a tragicomedy about prejudice set in contemporary midlands, England.
Bermel lived with his wife, Joyce, in New Rochelle. They raised two sons.