Playwright, director and author Oakley Hall III died on Saturday of a heart attack. He was 60 years old.
The eldest son of the late novelist Oakley Hall, he was a fast-rising star in the New York theater scene in the ’70s. His play “Mike Fink” was optioned by Joseph Papp of the Public Theatre. He was the charismatic founder and artistic director of the cutting edge Lexington Conservatory Theatre, where his plays “Grinder’s Stand” and “Beatrice and the Old Man,” as well as his adaptation of “Frankenstein,” enjoyed their premiere productions and rave reviews. Lexington Conservatory Theatre moved to Albany in 1979 and continues today as Capital Repertory Theatre.
In 1978, the 28-year-old Hall suffered traumatic and massive brain injuries in a fall from a bridge. The story of the Lexington Conservatory Theatre, Oakley’s fall and the agonizing process of rebuilding a new and full life, are movingly told in Bill Rose’s award-winning feature-length documentary film, “The Loss of Nameless Things.”
Oakley was a life-long fan of surrealist playwright Alfred Jarry, translating and adapting several of Jarry’s plays from the original French over the years. In 2008, Hall moved to Albany to live with Hadiya Wilborn and collaborate with fellow Jarry enthusiast and acclaimed puppeteer Ed Atkeson. The resulting production by Firlefanz Puppets was “Ubu Rex,” which premiered at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre in Albany in January, 2010, directed by Hall and starring Steven Patterson – an alum of Lexington Conservatory Theatre – in the title role.
In the fall of 2010, Oakley’s novel, “Jarry and Me,” was published by Absintheur Press. Subtitled “The Autobiography of Alfred Jarry by Oakley Hall III,” the book finds Oakley intertwining a memoir of his own life with a sly “autobiography” of Jarry. One of the last sentences of the book is, “Jarry dies with a grin on his face.” We are told that Oakley, too, had a grin on his face, at the end.
As Oakley would say, “Merdre.”