Stephen Ludwig, Key Member of OC Storefront Theater Scene, Dies in France

Dave Barton
Stephen Ludwig, in Montparnasse Cemetery, on his way to Samuel Beckett's grave
Irony is a staple of theater, so consider the irony of an indispensable member of Orange County's playrighting community, Stephen Ludwig, traveling to France for a writing vacation,only to die in the place that inspired him so much.
Yet, there is also something romantic about both dying in the place you love, and to do so while doing what you loved. Ludwig, who passed away at the age of 65 of apparently normal causes in Arles, France, May 10, was found near his laptop. He was working on a novel.

An early member of the New Voices Playwright Workshop, which evolved into the New Voices Playwrights Theatre, Ludwig told the Los Angeles Times in 2000 that, three years earlier, at the age of 50, he felt bored and wanted a change, so he decided to see if he had the "makings of a playwright." He quickly discovered he did.

His first produced play, Accidental Dancers, was staged by the Long Beach Playhouse in 2000. It was an emotionally engaging work about a married, closeted man who comes out and leaves his wife for a male lover. But then he leaves that lover to construct his own identity.

As Ludwig said, "And that is what the play is about: the degree to which we construct our own identities, the choices we have and don't have, the responsibilities we have to ourselves and to those we love."

The play received across-the-board critical praise, and was tabbed as Best New Play in 2000 by OC Weekly.

Ludwig continued to write and help develop other playwrights work. Though he did write comedies, he admitted in the LA Times article that "my writing is serious. I have basically a serious temperament. I want my work to have an impact on people's lives. I want to entertain them, but I want to reach them."

Eric Eberwein, a co-producer of OC-centric, an Orange County new play festival, and the founder of the county's other playwrights group, the Orange County Playwright Alliance, recalled both Ludwig's writing talent and his breadth of intellectual pursuits.

"I really thought Steve was one of the finest playwrights to emerge from the Orange County Storefront theater scene," he said. "The plays that stand out to me are Accidental Dancers and the one-act No More Angels, which I saw in a New Voices show at the Theatre District at the Lab in Costa Mesa. He wasn't as produced as much as he should have been, and I hope those two plays and others are revised and published. They deserve to be.

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