Founder of San Diego's Old Globe theater dies

Craig Noel, the founding director of the Old Globe theater in San Diego's Balboa Park, died at his home. He was 94.

The theater says Noel died of natural causes Saturday.

The Old Globe theater was built for an international exhibition in 1935. Noel helped the community troupe based at the temporary structure grow into an internationally known theater that staged Shakespeare plays and sent new dramatic work to Broadway.

He joined the group as a 22-year-old actor, started directing two years later and took a brief break to serve in World War II.

Noel was named resident director in 1947 and made the Globe the first professional Actors' Equity theater on the West Coast when the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival debuted in 1949.

Noel directed more than 200 works and produced 270, helping guide several productions to Broadway, including Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's "Into the Woods," August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson," and Neil Simon's "Rumors" and "Jake's Women."

In the 1960s, Noel introduced modern playwrights like Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco to the Southern California theater scene at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 1982, he turned over the job of artistic director to Jack O'Brien but kept a leadership role with the theater until his death.

In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush.

"It seems impossible to contemplate a landscape without Craig Noel in it," O'Brien said in a statement. "He always said of the Globe, that it was his cathedral."

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