Pioneering Black Theatremaker Melvin Van Peebles Dies at 89

Obituaries   Pioneering Black Theatremaker Melvin Van Peebles Dies at 89
 
The three-time Tony nominee created Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death and more.
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Melvin Van Peebles, the pioneering Black theatremaker who created works like Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death and Don't Play Us Cheap!, died September 21, 2021. He was 89.

Mr. Van Peebles made his Broadway debut with Ain't Supposed to Die…, which originally opened in 1971 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre before moving to the Ambassador. It scored seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Book Of A Musical, and Best Original Score.

Several stagings have been presented Off-Broadway since, with a Main Stem revival in the works. Kenny Leon is attached to direct and paid tribute to the artist on Twitter upon the news.

In 1973, Mr. Van Peebles scored his third Tony nomination for the book of Don't Play Us Cheap!. His additional works include Waltz of the Stork and Reggae. The creator also made his mark on screen with films like Watermelon Man and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

Born August 21, 1932, in Chicago, Illinois, Mr. Van Peebles graduated from Thornton Township before earning a B.A. in English from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1953. Prior to his artistic career, he served in the Air Force.

Mr. Van Peebles is survived by his sons, Mario and Max, daughter Marguerite, and 11 grandchildren.