Quintero, José E.

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Jose Quintero, was born October 15, 1924 in Panama City, Panama, as one of four children to Carlos Rivera and Consuelo Palmerola. He graduated from LaSalle Catholic High School in 1943, and was known for his ability to decorate altars and fervent moviegoing. Quintero briefly enrolled at the Los Angeles City College with the intention of a career in medicine, but soon thereafter returned to Panama City, where he worked as a ticket attendant for Panamanian Airways, an English Teacher at the Jesuit School and a salesman for the Chesterfield Cigarette Company. He returned to the United States to enroll at the University of California, where he graduated with in 1948. He then enrolled in the Goodman Theater Dramatic School in Chicago, moving Manhattan a year later.

With Ted Mann, he founded the Loft Players in Woodstock, N.Y in 1950. In 1951, they began the Circle in the Square Theater at 5 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village 'The Circle' became a revival showcase for works by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, directed by Quintero. Williams' "Summer and Smoke" was the Circle's first off-Broadway smash in 1952. Along with launching the careers of Quintero and the production's star, Geraldine Page, it signaled the emergence of the Off-Broadway movement. ''Quintero's success ignited footlights all over the Village, '' The New York Times reported. ''The American theater expanded some 40 blocks."

Quintero directed his first Broadway production in 1953, directing Judith Anderson in Jane Bowles' ''In the Summer House.'' In 1956 he received a Tony Award for best director for the Broadway production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night". In the 1970's Quintero's career and personal life floundered: he experienced bouts of depression and alcoholism. He credited his relationship with Nicholas Tsacrios, his longtime partner, as motivation to quit drinking, and reignite his career. It was during this period that he lead a group of actors in launching a new troupe, the Resurrection Company. Their efforts were recognized when Quintero was awarded a second Tony in 1973 for the production of "A Moon for the Misbegotten."

Quintero worked with and directed such stars as George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, Ingrid Bergman, Jason Robards, Liv Ullmann, Pat Hingle, Kirstie Alley, Betty Miller, Ralph Williams and Callista Flockhart. During his 50-year career, Quintero directed many contemporary masterworks, and maintained collaborations as well as close friendships with playwrights Tennessee Williams and Thornton Wilder. However, his legacy is defined by his direction of Eugene O'Neill's works.

It was Quintero's revivals of O'Neill's work which cemented their place in the American theatrical canon. At the time of O'Neill's death in 1953, his work had fallen out of fashion with directors and critics, and O'Neill's estate had become reluctant to grant performance rights. In order to produce "The Iceman Cometh" in 1956, Quintero appealed directly to Carlotta O'Neill, the playwright's widow. She gave Quintero her approval, and the two cultivated an intense friendship. Quintero's productions of "The Iceman Cometh", "Long Day's Journey Into Night", "A Touch of the Poet" and "A Moon for the Misbegotten" are regarded as definitive.

In 1987 Quintero was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to undergo a total laryngectomy, thus losing his voice. After a period of intense physical pain and emotional isolation, Quintero recovered his speech, taking rehabilitative esophageal speech classes and learning to use a hand-held Servox voice-activation device. Losing his voice led Quintero to begin a career in teaching, starting with a series of theatre workshops in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was invited to teach at the University of Houston by his former student and personal friend, Dr. Sidney Berger, director of the UH School of Theatre. Quintero spent his last years teaching at UH, and served as Wortham Chair for the Performing Arts for ten years. Quintero was extremely popular in the collegiate circle. In addition to UH, he taught at Florida State University and served as guest artist at California State University at Fullerton.

Quintero published an autobiography, "If You Don't Dance They Beat You", in 1974. It was published again in 1988. As a final commemoration to his distinguished artistic talent, Quintero received The Order of Vasquez Nunez de Balboa, a lifetime achievement honor, from his native Panama. It was a recurrence of cancer that brought Jose Quintero's life to an end. He passed away in New York, February 26, 1999 at the age of 74.

From the description of José Quintero papers, 1949-1998. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 694182640

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Abarbanell, Lina, 1879-1963. Lina Abarbanell papers, 1886-1963. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953. Eugene O'Neill papers, 1872-1970 (bulk 1930-1959). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Kessel, Marion. Marion Kessel Performing Arts Collection, 1977-2000. Rice University, Fondren Library
creatorOf Mann, Theodore. Circle in the Square papers, 1906-2004 New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Quintero, José. José Quintero papers, 1949-1998. University of Houston, M.D. Anderson Library
referencedIn O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953. Eugene O'Neill papers, 1872-1970 (bulk 1930-1959) Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abarbanell, Lina, 1879-1963. person
associatedWith Kessel, Marion person
associatedWith Mann, Theodore person
associatedWith O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953 person
associatedWith University of Houston corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Performing Arts
Theater
Theatrical producers and directors
Occupation
Activity

Person

Active 1886

Active 1963

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