Frank Joseph Galati: A Prolific Figure in American Theater

Frank Joseph Galati (November 29, 1943 – January 2, 2023) was a renowned American director, writer, and actor whose contributions to the world of theater left an indelible mark. His career spanned decades, during which he achieved acclaim as both a director and writer. Let’s delve into the life and achievements of this distinguished figure.

Early Life and Education

Born in Highland Park, Illinois, Frank Galati was the son of Virginia, a saleswoman at Marshall Field, and Frank Galati, a dog trainer and boarder. He completed his high school education at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois. During his high school years, he excelled in speech and even secured a state championship in the Original Comedy event in 1961.

Galati’s educational journey continued at Western Illinois University for a year before he transferred to Northwestern University. Here, he pursued a B.S. in speech, specializing in interpretation, which he earned in 1965. His dedication to the field led him to teach at the University of South Florida. Subsequently, he obtained an M.S. in speech from Northwestern in 1966 and completed his academic journey with a Ph.D. in interpretation from Northwestern in 1971. During these years of academic pursuit, Galati actively engaged in directing and performing in numerous plays, laying the foundation for his future career in theater.

A Distinguished Career in Theater

Frank Galati’s theater career flourished, and he made significant contributions to the world of drama. He served as an associate director at the Goodman Theatre from 1986 to 2008, where his talent and passion for the stage shone.

Throughout his career, Galati received numerous accolades, including induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2004. He was honored with nine Joseph Jefferson Awards, celebrating his outstanding contributions to Chicago theater.

One of Galati’s most notable achievements was his collaboration with Lawrence Kasdan to adapt the novel The Accidental Tourist into a film of the same name. The screenplay received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), among other recognitions.

In 1990, Galati was awarded the prestigious Tony Award for Best Play for his adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, a production that originated at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and later moved to Broadway. His exceptional work also earned him a Tony for Best Direction of a Play, with the drama receiving additional nominations in acting categories.

Galati’s creative genius extended to adapting other literary works, including As I Lay Dying in 1995, Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake in 2005, and his original piece, Everyman (1995). Most of his work debuted at Steppenwolf, a testament to his enduring connection with the theater company.

Beyond directing, Galati occasionally graced the stage as an actor. He directed notable productions such as Ragtime in 1998 and The Pirate Queen in 2007 for Broadway. His directorial skills extended to The Visit, which he directed at the Goodman Theatre in 2001 and at the Signature Theatre (Arlington, Virginia) in May 2008, starring the legendary Chita Rivera.

In 2020, Galati brought to life Knoxville, a production with a book score by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and Galati’s direction and libretto. The play, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Death in the Family by James Agee and the Pulitzer Prize-winning play All the Way Home by Tad Mosel, premiered at the Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Legacy and Contributions

Frank Galati’s impact on American theater was profound. His dedication to the craft and ability to bring literary works to life on stage enriched the theatrical landscape. His papers are preserved at Northwestern University, a testament to his scholarly and artistic legacy. Galati retired as a professor emeritus in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University in 2006.

In his personal life, Galati married his longtime partner, Peter Amster, in 2017. They split their time between Sarasota, Florida, and Beaver Island on Lake Michigan.

On January 2, 2023, Frank Joseph Galati passed away in Sarasota due to cancer, leaving behind a body of work that continues to inspire and captivate theater enthusiasts around the world. His contributions to the world of theater will be remembered as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling through drama.