It is with deep sorrow that Repertorio EspañoI announces the passing of its Co-founder and Artistic Director, René Buch.
René Buch, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Repertorio Español passed away at home on April 19th, 2020, in his 94th year.
Born on December 19, 1925, in the city of Santiago, Cuba, Buch went on to receive a doctorate in law from Universidad de La Habana in 1948. The forties were an important period for theater in Cuba when world-class artists took refuge in La Habana during World War II. Buch was inspired to write his own theater work after being in the audience for every production by French playwright and director Louis Jouvet (1887-1951). Jouvet could not return to his native France at the time because of the war and he continued to work in Cuba, indirectly motivating a young Buch. At the age of twenty, Buch won the National Prize from Patronato del Teatro after entering his first playwriting competition with Del agua de la vida [From the Waters of Life.] This play marked a new era for Buch; he earned support from the organization Pro Arte de Oriente, and under its auspices, founded Acción Teatral de Actores to produce new Cuban theater.
In 1949, he enrolled in the Yale Drama School and taught Spanish language and literature while pursuing his MFA. After graduating, he was Associate Editor for the Arts at Visión magazine and, simultaneously, Editor of the cultural section at El Diario La Prensa. He was then editor for the Spanish edition of the Journal of the United Nations. Buch later became head of Spanish creative copy for J. Walter Thompson as well as book editor for Reader’s Digest.
By 1968, Buch was back in the theater with La dama duende, which earned him awards for Best Director and Best Work in Spanish by the Association of Latin Entertainment Critics of New York (ACE). Buch and producer Zaldívar joined forces with Robert Federico in 1971 and moved their theater company to the Gramercy Arts Theatre, under its new name, Repertorio Español. The company began in its mission to produce canonical theater in Spanish as well as works translated into Spanish. Under Buch’s direction, Repertorio established a collaborative acting ensemble, where actors would rotate between different plays. His vision led Repertorio to great success, including national and international tours of the company’s multiple productions.
Buch worked his way through an impressive array of theater works, ranging from 17th-century classics to new Latinx theater. Notably, Buch directed canonical works from Golden Age masters as well as the New York premieres of a remarkable display of contemporary theater in Spanish. Buch’s prolific work as director includes productions for CSC, the Pearl Theater, The Milwaukee Rep, Albany’s Capital Rep, La Compañía de Albuquerque, Washington’s Folger Theatre, the Oregon’s Ashland Shakespeare Festival and The Old Globe in San Diego. For the musical stage, he directed zarzuelas and some of Repertorio’s greatest musical anthologies, making music part of his vision for the company artistic legacy.
His impressive talents made him a visionary and numerous awards serve as tribute to his craft. These include an OBIE for Artistic Trajectory (1989), a Drama Desk Award for Artistic Achievement (1996), an ENCORE Award for forty years of Sustained Excellence in Management by the Arts & Business Council of New York (2007), and Theatre Communications Group’s Theatre Practitioner Award (2008) among others. Buch was awarded a Lifetime Achievement OBIE Award (2011) and was bestowed with The Order of Isabella the Catholic (2012) by King Juan Carlos I of Spain for his contributions to Spain-U.S. cultural relations.
Throughout his life, Buch’s creativity not only shone brightly in the world of Theatre, but also as a lawyer, journalist, editor, and painter; his recipe for Cuban black beans was featured in the New York Times (1969). René’s artistic legacy will go on, inspiring theatre-makers, goers, and actors alike.
A memorial service will be announced as soon as permitted. The family and friends of René would like to extend their sincerest gratitude to all the health and care workers during these difficult times.
Photo by Michael Palma Mir.
“René was a wonderful director to work with. He was welcoming and eager to collaborate. He was known for being demanding, and yes, he was quite demanding. But it was all to serve the art. His artistry was all about exploration and discovery – it was about the possibilities. I was so blessed beyond blessings that he directed ‘La gringa’”. – Carmen Rivera, Playwright of ‘La gringa’ with 24 years in Repertory.
“I would never forget seeing the Spanish version of ‘Anna in the Tropics’ at Repertorio, and being in awe of his direction, the economy, and simplicity of his production, which made the language soar to greater heights”. – Nilo Cruz, Pulitzer Prize Winning Playwright.
“René liberated me from naturalism into the world of the theatrical imagination. I would have never been the playwright I became without Rene’s love, knowledge, talent, and mentorship”. – Eduardo Machado, Playwright.