Since Lisa died, Heinemann, the company she worked for, has been incredibly supportive and helpful, but I think they may have surpassed themselves this time.
Lisa was editor of Heinemann’s theatre books, which covered a wide range of topics: books for professionals and books for classroom teachers who were stuck doing the class play; monologue collections and essays on musical theatre; books on improv and books on playwriting; acting for animators and acting as a profession and so very much more. The books she published on theatre and education were particularly well received, and she was very proud that her authors had won the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s Distinguished Book Award 10 times. The first one was for Gerald Chapman’s Teaching Young Playwrights; Lisa received an almost-completed manuscript after Chapman’s death, and saw it through to publication. Her books won again in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005. Under her leadership, Heinemann also received a Lin Wright Special Recognition Award in 2001.
This year, another book she edited, Spaces of Creation, by Suzan Zeder and Jim Hancock, won the Distinguished Book Award. (I had the privilege of reading it in manuscript, and it’s wonderful! But that’s another blog entry.) AATE presents its awards at its annual conference, usually held at the end of July or the beginning of August.
This year, along with honoring Suzan and Jim’s book, AATE honored Lisa, too. She was voted a Lin Wright Special Recognition Award, which, according to the website, is for “persons who have established special programs, developed experimental works, made distinctive educational contributions or provided meritorious service thus furthering theatre and drama for young people.”
Heinemann brought me to AATE so that I could be there to hear the tributes. More than that, they asked me to accept the Lin Wright Award on Lisa’s behalf. They also co-hosted, with NYU, a reception in Lisa’s honor, for all the folks who valued her as a friend as well as an editor.
It was a wonderful, profoundly moving experience. The Lin Wright Award presentation was so funny and true and warm (one of the people who nominated her was quoted as saying Lisa combined the best features of a dramaturge and a mother — yep, that’s a Lisa I recognize!), and she received the longest standing ovation of the day, which would have delighted her! At the reception, I met literally dozens of her authors, and every one of them said, in essence, "she changed my life." (One even added, "She got me tenure!") It was wonderful and exhausting and incredibly moving - but not surprising. Lisa never did quite realize just how special she was.
Nor is it surprising that Heinemann would do something like this — the folks there are a class act — but I’m still deeply grateful. Thanks, guys. This was something extra special.