Theater Legend Reuben Silver Dead at 88

Reuben and Dorothy Silver pose for their Benjamin Rose Institute profile in 2009
Reuben and Dorothy Silver pose for their Benjamin Rose Institute profile in 2009
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It's almost impossible to overstate the impact Reuben Silver had on the Northeast Ohio theater scene. Over the course of eight decades, he won numerous awards for acting and directing, and was an influential teacher, arts administrator and even a popular radio host.

But, perhaps Reuben Silver's most famous role was as the acting partner of his equally talented wife, Dorothy. The Silvers performed together many times, over the course of more than 60 years, including the Gin Game, playing a couple of nursing home residents.

Reuben Silver said he couldn't relate to other couples who tried to separate their work life from their home life. He suggested that the theatrical relationship he had with Dorothy was actually enhanced by their marriage.

REUBEN SILVER: We come in from a rehearsal, we can sit down in the kitchen and have some hot chocolate or coffee, and talk about what happened, candidly to each other, because if you love someone, your objective is to make them even better.

Over the course of his career, Reuben Silver was artistic director at Cleveland's nationally renown Karamu Theater, where he collaborated with another Cleveland legend, Langston Hughes. Silver also headed-up Cleveland State University's theater department, and he was fond of saying that --- after he retired --- he was busier than ever, acting and directing for many companies around town. Joyce Casey, the former artistic director of Dobama Theater, says Reuben Silver was an important mentor.

JOYCE CASEY: I remember numerous times sitting in their living room with all of their theater magazines and newspapers piled high. I was comfortable to just sit there and talk and ask for advice, and they were very generous and understanding and caring to me. And I really appreciated it.

Reuben Silver also had a long-running weekly program on WCLV called "Arts Beat", during the time he was at Cleveland State. WCLV's Robert Conrad has fond memories of the Silvers:

ROBERT CONRAD: They were the ones who really kind of put Cleveland State on the map, because they were reaching out to the community, whereas the University only tends to be involved in its students. They were a community icon with the productions they did at Cleveland State.

One of the up-and-coming stars that the Silvers mentored was actor and playwright Eric Coble who recently took his play, "The Velocity of Autumn", to Broadway.

ERIC COBLE: He and Dorothy were my theatrical parents in this town.

Coble is a part of Reuben Silver's living legacy. He and Dorothy nurtured many stage performers over the years.

ERIC COBLE: They were the ones who said "come, be a part of this family. Here's how you can work in this family, here's who you can be, here's how to become an artist here." And, from all I've heard from other people, they did that for dozens and dozens of people over decades and decades.

In addition to Dorothy, Reuben Silver leaves behind three sons and four grandchildren. He was 88.

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