Monday, January 17, 2022

How did Terry Teachout die? The prolific essayist, 65, was a man of ‘honor and kindness’

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Terry Teachout was a biographer, playwright, director, and theater critic for The Wall Street Journal

Prolific New York biographer and essayist Terry Teachout died Thursday, January 13, at the age of 65 at a friend’s Smithtown home. The cause of death has reportedly not yet been determined. Teachout was born in 1956 and grew up in Sikeston, Missouri. His father was a hardware salesman and his mother a receptionist and secretary. Teachout, a Wall Street Journal biographer, playwright, director and theater critic, was a graduate of William Jewell College. He studied journalism and music.

His career as a theater critic began when he began writing reviews for the Kansas City Star. He also wrote for The New York Daily News and National Review. Teachout’s play Satchmo At The Waldorf, an acclaimed one-man, two-character play, was produced at the Westside Theatre. Directed by Gordon Juwel and starring John Douglas Thompson. Billy and Ma, his second play, premiered in December 2017 at the Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach, Florida.


“Irreplaceable champion of the theater”

In 2003, Teachout began writing drama reviews for The Wall Street Journal. His biographies of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, George Balanchine and HL Mencken are valued worldwide. Teachout’s famous memoir, City Limits: Memories of a Small-Town Boy, details his childhood in Sikeston, Missouri. In the memoir, he wrote that Sikeston “was still a place where people salute the flag and don’t ask for receipts, where everyone knows who your parents were and what they did for a living. It’s tight and friendly and decent and good, and I’m blessed to have grown up in its shabby, forgiving bosom.”

Social media mourned Teachout, with condolences and tributes to Theater and his zeal to write about it was inexhaustible. This is heartbreaking news,” wrote one user. Another commented: “Terry Teachout was one of my favorite Twitter followers. He didn’t know how to use it to be shallow or cruel as it should be. They were just great bits of old music, movies and shows, and refreshingly serious insights into his own grief and love(s). I think I only met him once, but RIP.

“Terry Teachout wrote a lot of things. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything more moving than when he wrote about the loss of his wife. This passage equally describes the world’s loss from him,” wrote one user, sharing a passage. “This is shocking and terribly sad. A great critic and irreplaceable champion of theater, the rare national critic who reported regularly on regional houses across the United States. Also much friendlier and more generous online than anyone else. RIP Terry Teachout.” One user said, while another wrote: “Even now, Terry Teachout’s absence makes the world feel a little smaller and a lot less intelligent. He understood both the practice and the function of criticism better than most today. He consistently honored both. “

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