- About Us
Julian M. Olf, theater artist, educator and playwright, died January 5, 2019 of cancer at his home in Sarasota, FL. He was 76.
Julian was born September 18, 1942, to Mark Olf, a Jewish folksinger and recording artist, and his wife, Rubia, a pianist. For the first ten years of his life, he lived in Knickerbocker Village, a WPA project for artists and musicians on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His father, Mark, recorded his first album on a tape recorder borrowed from their neighbor – writer Norman Mailer. The fertile creative environment of Julian's youth afforded him a deep appreciation of art, literature and music, and his life became a passionate adventure in the world of ideas.
An excellent student and accomplished classical clarinetist, Julian attended New York City's High School of Music & Art. He received a BA in English from Union College, an MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and a PhD in Drama and Cinema from New York University. His graduate studies delved deeply into philosophy and the arts, and he also acted as a member of La Mama Plexus, an influential avant-garde theater company in New York.
Julian went on to a distinguished career as a theater artist and educator. As a director and professor, he was known for high standards, erudition, and passion for the work. He challenged his students to become artists in their own right, and many credit him with planting the seeds that propelled them into a life in the arts. Julian's brilliance and eloquence could awe students, but they were soon engaged by his generosity, large heart, and marvelous humor. In his 44-year teaching and scholarly career, he chaired the theater departments at the University of Toledo and then at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, oversaw the building of a fine arts center in Toledo, served as editor of Theatre Journal and published in a variety of professional publications in the areas of performance theory and pedagogy.
After retiring he committed himself to writing plays and screenplays, which were produced all over the country, and he won numerous awards for his work.
Beyond his many talents and accomplishments, Julian was a loving and dedicated family man. In the months before his death he was preparing a published version of the stories he told his daughter Kimiko as a child. He is survived by his beloved wife, Dr. Patricia Vandenberg, his partner in life, art, and intellectual adventure; his devoted children - daughter and son-in-law Kimiko and Matthew Ogg and stepdaughter Tory Blom; his brother Jonathan Olf; and a host of loving members of his extended family.
Julian was distinguished by an open-minded clarity, compassion for the suffering of others, and a rare ability to listen as well as to perform. He was a generous mentor, a dear friend, and an admired colleague to people from many walks of life, including those in the recovery communities to which he was deeply committed.
Memorials will be held on March 23 at 10 a.m. at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota and in Massachusetts at a later date. Donations in Julian's honor can be made to The Prison Music Project, HLP Productions L.L.C., P.O. Box 4321, Sarasota 34230 or to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236.
Hebrew Memorial Funeral Services, Sarasota / Manatee is serving the family.