Goodbye, Godspeed: Ira J. Bilowit Dead at 90

July 28, 2016

Ira J. Bilowit, 90, a long-time member and former vice president of the Drama Desk, died on Friday, July 22, after several months of illness.

A life-long New Yorker, Ira was educated at The City College of the City University of New York. During his years as a freelance journalist, he published substantial interviews with a host of distinguished artists, including playwrights Eugene Ionesco, Tennessee Williams, and David Mamet. He served as managing editor of the trade journal Show Business from 1961 to 1963. With his third wife, the late Debbi Wasserman Bilowit, Ira published and edited New York Theatre Review from 1976 to 1980.

Ira was the author of a number of plays, including The Secret Concubine and For Love of Candy. He was lyricist and co-librettist of a musical adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men which ran at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village in 1958. The composer for Of Mice and Men was Alfred Brooks, and Wilson Lehr was Ira’s collaborator on the libretto. The cast of the Off-Broadway production included Jo Sullivan Loesser and Art Lund. Forty-nine years later, in July 2007, Manhattan’s York Theatre Company featured Of Mice and Men in its Developmental Reading Series.

Ira was an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the International Association of Theatre Critics, and the Dramatists Guild, as well as the Drama Desk. He remained active as a freelance journalist and theater reviewer until the end of his life. 

In recent years, Ira collaborated with Drama Desk member Sherry Eaker, former publisher of Backstage, in arranging and hosting ATCA’s popular New York City “mini-conferences.” The 2016 ATCA weekend will be held October 28-30 in Manhattan.

Ira is survived by Michael and William (Bill) Bilowit, his sons by his second wife, Alice Spivak.

--Charles Wright