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Obituaries in the News

May 11, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jack Gelber, whose play ``The Connection″ polarized both theatergoers and critics and won three Obie awards, died Friday of a cancer of the blood, said his wife, Carol. He was 71.

``The Connection,″ written when Gelber was 26, opened Off Broadway at the Living Theater in 1959. It was soon appreciated for its innovations in style, language and substance.

``The Connection″ is a play within a play, with actors playing the director and the author, who the audience is told have been living among drug addicts.

During intermission the actors solicited money from the audience, and in the second act a man in the audience interrupts the performance _ all scripted details designed to accentuate the play’s improvisational feel.

``I was so affected and energized by `The Connection,‴ playwright Edward Albee told The New York Times. ``It was exciting, dangerous, instructive and terrifying, all things theater should be.″

Gelber also wrote a dozen other plays, worked as a theater director and spent years teaching and encouraging young playwrights, actors and directors.

He was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois before moving to New York in the mid-1950s.

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