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Craig Noel, Founding Director Of The Old Globe, Dies At 94

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Craig Noel, Founding Director of The Old Globe. Noel died from natural causes on April 3rd at the age of 94. Photo courtesy of The Old Globe.

Craig Noel, the founding director of the Old Globe theater, died of natural causes on Saturday, April 3rd, at his home in San Diego. He was 94.

“He dedicated his life to his art and singlehandedly made theater the center of San Diego’s cultural life," said Globe Executive Producer Lou Spisto.

Noel worked with with the Old Globe for over 70 years, directing more than 200 plays and producing an additional 270 productions. He became artistic director in 1949 and guided the theater to prominence. He launched the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival that same year and ten years later guided the Globe from community to professional status, establishing the first full Actors’ Equity company in California. 

Noel also established the Master of Fine Arts graduate acting program, in conjunction with University of San Diego.

“It seems impossible to contemplate a landscape without Craig Noel in it,” said the Globe’s Artistic Director Emeritus, Jack O’Brien. “One of the originals, one of the giants of the regional industry... that bestrode the mid-part of the last century, and who paved the way for so many of us to follow.  He was my benign father; not the austere authority of John Houseman, nor, indeed, the colleague Ellis Rabb proved to be; instead, he led by witty, loving example – never needlessly confronting, never challenging, always nurturing, always supportive, and always, always charmingly funny.  That is not an easy posture to maintain in our industry.  He always said of the Globe, that it was his cathedral:  indeed, it was!”

In 2007, Noel received the National Medal of Arts – the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence – from President George W. Bush in a ceremony at the White House. 

A memorial service to be held at the Old Globe will be announced at a later date.

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