John McCormack, Longtime Off-Broadway Artistic Director, Dies at 61

Courtesy of David Gersten & Associates
John McCormack (right) with D.S. Moynihan en route to the 2017 Tony Awards

He championed the careers of Kevin Bacon, Patricia Clarkson, Warren Leight and many others.

John McCormack, who nurtured emerging writers, directors, actors and designers on the New York not-for-profit theater scene for nearly four decades, has died. He was 61.

McCormack died May 18 "of natural causes related to COVID-19" in his home in Queens, International Arts Relations Inc. announced. He had served as executive director of INTAR, a theater devoted to producing new work by Latino playwrights in English, since 2006.

"The loss of John McCormack is not just a loss for INTAR but for the off-Broadway theater community as well," artistic director Lou Moreno said in a statement. "He was a living history of off-Broadway. There was scarcely a name or a play he did not have intimate knowledge of, and that perspective is what kept our offices full of chatter and laughter."

Born in New York City on April 13, 1959, McCormack graduated from Hamilton College in 1981. He began his career at Ensemble Studio Theatre, where he was producing director and co-founder of the Directors Project with the Drama League.

He followed with stints at Naked Angels (artistic director); the Zipper Theater (co-founder/artistic director); Summer Shorts (co-founder/producing artistic director); All Seasons Theater, his own company; and then INTAR.

He also oversaw student productions and served as a guest lecturer at Sarah Lawrence College.

McCormack championed the careers of many including Kevin Bacon, Mark Brokaw, Patricia Clarkson, Marian Fontana, Richard Greenberg, Roger Hedden, Lucas Hnath, Wendy Kesselman, Leslie Lyles, Eduardo Machado, Deb Margolin, Rob Morrow, Keith Reddin, Jacquelyn Reingold, José Rivera, Will Scheffer, Paul Weitz and Alan Zweibel.

Some of those he worked with would go on to be artistic directors of their own theaters, like Douglas Aibel, Bernard Telsey and Christopher Ashley. In 2014, he brought Albert Innaurato and Jack Hofsiss back to the New York stage after a long absence with Doubtless.

"Nobody encouraged me more as a playwright than John McCormack," Warren Leight, Tony winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist for Side Man and executive producer of Law & Order: SVU, said in a statement. "He produced the very first staged reading of Side Man and at least a dozen of my one-acts over the past 25 years. He was tireless in his support of writers and actors and utterly self-effacing when anyone tried to thank him."

"I think of anyone I've known who's made a life in the theater, he was the least concerned with conventional notions of success," added Richard Greenberg, Tony winner (Take Me Out) and Pulitzer finalist for Take Me Out and Three Days of Rain. "He worked on what he liked, with whom he liked, and was deeply loyal. That's really something."

Survivors include his sisters, Katherine and Mary, and their respective spouses, Theodore and Anthony; brothers James and Paul (and his wife Kathleen); nephews Ryan, Alex and Trevor; and niece Ainsley.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in his memory be made to Actors Fund COVID-19 Emergency Relief.