Terry Teachout – WSJ

Terry Teachout,

who adorned these pages as our drama critic and cultural columnist for nearly 20 years, died early Thursday at age 65.

An artistic savant of wide erudition, Terry had written reviews and other pieces for our books and arts pages as long ago as 1987. He took on the role of weekly theater critic with gusto in March 2003, and he made his reviews a favorite destination for readers as the weekend approached.

Terry Teachout in 2014.


Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

His prose was always lively and accessible, and in his judgments he was clear-eyed, uninterested in conventional wisdom, and committed to assessing each production on its merits. He believed in upholding standards of artistic quality and execution, regardless of the fashions of the times.

Terry made a particular mark by exploring the American theater beyond Broadway. He was a tireless champion of regional theater, reviewing more productions than any other critic. The Journal is a national newspaper, and Terry told readers about actors and producers worth celebrating and seeing around the country.

Terry was an artist in his own right, as an opera librettist and playwright. He wrote biographies of

H.L. Mencken,

Louis Armstrong


Duke Ellington,

and his one-actor play about Armstrong ran in an off-Broadway theater to good reviews.

Terry enjoyed the pace and serendipity of daily journalism. Readers saw his gift for that work most recently in his obituary appreciation for the composer and lyricist

Stephen Sondheim.

He turned the elegant tribute around within an hour after learning of Sondheim’s death, as he had many others over the years.

In 2014 the Bradley Foundation gave Terry one of its


prizes, a rare winner in the arts. “Terry Teachout has distinguished himself, not just as a first-rate journalist, but as a supporter of the arts,” said Michael W. Grebe, president of the Bradley Foundation, at the time. “His work as a biographer and a playwright is critical to advancing and preserving America’s artistic and cultural tradition.”

In his acceptance remarks, Terry spoke about the importance of resisting the temptation to treat the arts, and artistic endeavor, as a political exercise. In these polarized times in particular, his cheerful, civilized and civilizing voice will be missed.

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Appeared in the January 14, 2022, print edition.

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