Theater & art

THEATER

Al Pacino gives a tribute to director David Wheeler

CAM FORBES/FILE 1973
David Wheeler (right) with Al Pacino (front) and Paul Benedict, working on Theatre Company of Boston’s 1973 production of “Richard III.”

Al Pacino issued a statement to the Globe last night about the director David Wheeler, with whom Pacino worked closely during the early phases of his acting career. Wheeler died Wednesday at 86. Below is Pacino’s eloquently heartfelt tribute in its entirety:

“David Wheeler has been one of the lights of my life. He has been there for me throughout and seen me go from a penniless actor who he supported with real generosity, heart and love under his tutelage, inspiration, and guidance. His gift was his ability to move with the actor, to allow the freedom necessary for the actor to express wherever his or her gifts led them. At the same time, he was an advocate for the play and the production. Anyone would tell you his approach was different. He was so individual. His eccentricities, knowledge and intellect are something I will prize forever because they were ego-less. I don’t think I’ve ever met a man or woman more unique. He was who he was and as you go on in life you find people like him are rarities.

“I can recall when we did [David Rabe’s play, ‘The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel,’] on Broadway, David [Wheeler] allowed the production to grow even after it opened. Had the critics come to see the show in August instead of April when it opened they would have been able to really see his direction because part of his style was to have the actors bring their contributions so that the energy and dynamic on the stage was palpable over time. I really think it would have gotten him a Tony Award because nobody could do that better. He knew the play needed time and I remember speaking to people when it happened that he was overlooked by The Tonys because David’s productions grow, they are not stationary, their life is ongoing and that’s what gives them that special identity. I’ve hardly seen anyone do that except for The Living Theater. I believe that’s as close as I can be to accurately describing David Wheeler’s work.

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“His love of course of playwrights, actors, and the theater itself was insurmountable. There should be a statue of him in remembrance. Except for Massachusetts and Boston it could be said that he was somewhat unsung in his life, but perhaps like some of the other people we have known and come to know over the years he will become a fixture that we acknowledge and respect all over. I hope it happens to David, but even if it doesn’t all the many lives of the people he came to know and help will hopefully continue and we I’m sure will spread the word. I loved him so much.”