Theater Legend, Malibu Stage Company Founder Charles Marowitz Passes Away

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Charles Marowitz

Legendary playwright and fierce stage critic Charles Marowitz, who co-founded the Malibu Stage Company, passed away last Friday after a longtime battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.

His wife, Jane Windsor-Marowitz, confirmed the news to The Malibu Times on Monday. 

“He was a fighter. He didn’t let go easily,” she said.

The longtime Malibu resident dedicated more than 60 years of his life to theater, and he gained notoriety for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and as the founder of the Open Space Theatre in London. Locally, Marowitz founded the Malibu Stage Company in 1990 with Jacqueline Bridgeman. 

“In order to finance our early efforts and our new home, we launched fundraisers and direct appeals to the community of Malibu—posters, mailers and press releases. And the community responded!” Bridgeman wrote in a recent letter to the editor.

Marowitz was born to Jewish immigrants Tillie Rosenkrantz and Harry Marowitz on the lower East Side in New York City on Jan. 26, 1932. The youngest of three siblings, Charles and his family were very poor and lived in tenements.

Charles got involved with theater at age 17, starting stage directing and also working as “the youngest and most intolerant” critic for Village Voice publications, according to his wife.

“He was a very complex man — who didn’t suffer fools gladly,” his widow said. “If Charles told you he liked something you’d done, he’d mean it, same if he thought you’d messed up — he always told it like it was. Never compromised. 

“But the flip side of him, which only those very close to him saw, was his big romantic heart. He cried at old movies and loved me and his son to bits. If Charles was your friend, you had a friend for life.”

After being drafted to serve in the Korean War, Marowitz was eventually sent to the U.K. under the GI Bill in 1956. There, he enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and dove full force into his life’s passion—theater. He would go on to spend 20 years living in London and co-found the Open Space Theatre and co-direct the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He went on to write, produce and direct stage plays in London, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. He came back to the U.S. and moved to Malibu in 1982, the year he married Jane. Around the same time, he was brought on to direct the Los Angeles Theater Center. Along with stage work, Marowitz enjoyed teaching and wrote reviews for many publications. His teaching career took him from Texas Christian University to California State University, Long Beach.

After co-founding the Malibu Stage Company, Marowitz served as its creative director for more than a decade before the board of directors fired him in 2002. The board complained that he was often too disparaging.

“Maybe I don’t suffer fools gladly,” Marowitz said. “But there was nothing in my contract that [said] I had to be a sweet fellow.”

Marowitz authored more than 30 books during his life, mostly on the topic of acting and directing. Many of his theater reviews are compiled as anthologies in “Confessions of a Counterfeit Critic” and “Stage Dust.” He served as a drama critic for the LA Herald Examiner and contributed to several other publications. 

Charles is survived by his wife, Jane, and his son, Konstantin Edward Marowitz. A private memorial service will likely take place in June.