Paul Lucas, theatre producer and playwright

Born: October 15, 1961;

Died: August 11, 2020.

PAUL Lucas, who has died peacefully at home in New Jersey, aged 58, following a short battle with cancer, was a theatre producer whose work was fired with passion and energy. Whether presenting solo pieces or ensemble works, he was unwavering in his integrity and his dedication to saying what needed to be said onstage.

He facilitated this with a charm and an inherent sense of fun that embraced anyone who became part of his orbit. If you were a friend of Paul Lucas’s, you were a friend for life.

This open-hearted ebullience never undermined the seriousness of Lucas’s work. That was the case with both the Herald Angel-winning The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac and Simon Levy’s dramatic adaptation of Eliot Weinberger’s prose poem, What I Heard About Iraq, both of which Lucas brought to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006.

It was there even more in Trans Scripts, Part 1: The Women, which revealed Lucas the playwright in a show that drew from verbatim interviews with the trans community to create a disparate patchwork of moving real-life testimonies that gave it collective voice.

After three years of development, Lucas brought Trans Scripts, his first play, to Edinburgh in 2015. Seen in the hotbed of the Fringe in a sweatbox of a space at the Pleasance, Trans Scripts received multiple accolades, and was highly commended in that year’s Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

It went on to be performed by American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, where the Boston Globe hailed it as one of the top ten productions of the year. The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers similarly named it as one of the top ten theatrical moments of the year.

All this happened under the banner of Paul Lucas Productions, the company Lucas founded to stage work by artistic kindred spirits at home and abroad, including numerous other shows he brought to Edinburgh. A sense of inclusiveness was at the heart of everything Lucas did, both in his work and in the legendary parties he threw, where paintings of friends lined the walls. In this sense Lucas could be regarded as a collector and curator, both of art and the people who made it happen.

Lucas’s favourite phrases upon meeting a new colleague or friend were, “How can I help you with your work?” and “There’s someone you have to meet.” It was these talents of nurturing artists, bringing people together and making things happen that gave Lucas’s work such heart and soul.

Paul Kevin Lucas was born in New York, one of three children to Ann Lucas (nee Hannigan) and Rawley Dean Lucas. He spent his early years in Englewood, New Jersey, where he attended Dwight-Englewood School. He went on to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University, graduating in 1979 with a BA in English.

Lucas joined Paul Szilard Productions, where he booked for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and produced several plays off-Broadway. These included Patrick E. Horrigan’s play, Messages for Gary (1999), an AIDs-era memoir drawn from phone messages left by gay activist Gary Lucek; TimeSlips, a storytelling project for elder people with cognitive impairments by Anne Basting; a staging of Nosferatu (2000), featuring Klaus Kinski’s son, Nikolai Kinski; and Son of Drakula (2002), written and performed by David Drake.

After a fellowship in Arts Administration at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, Lucas became the Director of Press and Marketing for Williamstown Theatre Festival before founding Paul Lucas Productions. The company went on to tour work to more than 75 cities across the globe.

Lucas brought more than a dozen productions to Edinburgh, including Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie (2007); Dai ('enough'), Iris Bahr’s 2007 one-woman show featuring ten different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters; and Ten Directions (2009), a bouffon-clown take on Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie. He also worked with comedian and drag performer Miss Coco Peru, and developed a decade-long writing partnership with Drew Geraci, collaborating on a screenplay, Lavender Arms, and a television pilot, The Van.

In 2012, Lucas began developing Trans Scripts, interviewing 75 trans people for the piece in an effort to enable audiences to understand the trans experience in an attempt to make the world a safer place for the trans community. That same year he met Kendall Messick through mutual friends. For the next eight years the couple were inseparable, sharing homes in New York City and New Jersey inbetween travelling the world on the great personal and professional adventure they shared. In 2017 Lucas and Messick got engaged, and married in July this year.

At the time of his passing, Lucas was working on Trans Scripts, Part II: The Men, as well as a new solo theatre piece. Both will have undoubtedly been worked on with the same dedication, sense of humanity and love that filtered throughout Lucas’ life and work.

Lucas is survived by his husband, Kendall Messick, his sister, Kathleen, his brother, Mark, brother-in-law, Hank, and numerous nephews, nieces, aunts, cousins and grand-nephews.