Belated Rest in Peace to Don B. Wilmeth

We have our fingers in many pies here at Travalanche so sometimes we miss major news (e.g. departures from the mortal plane) by people we care about. Thus it is with Don B. Wilmeth, whom we just learned passed away about a year and a half ago (late February, 2020). In the ordinary course of events I might have gotten the memo much sooner, but this has been rather an eventful year and a half, yes? Anyway, Professor Wilmeth was our honoree at the the 2012 Theatre Museum Awards. At the time of his passing he was Emeritus Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown. He had joined the faculty at Brown in 1967 and had headed his department for many of those years, retiring in 2003. Wilmeth had written or edited nearly 50 books, much of which had been very useful to me in my research, including the 3 volume Cambridge History of American Theatre, as well as Variety Entertainment and Outdoor Amusements: A Reference Guide (1982), Mud Show: American Tent Circus Life (1988), The Language of American Popular Entertainment (1981), and many more. I only met him the once, but we shall forever be refreshing our familiarity with his scholarship.

Ye Shall Know Him by his Works! There’s great info about him and his accomplishments in eulogies here:

Brown University

American Theatre Magazine

American Society for Theatre Research


  1. Don was a prince. He and Judy had me stay with them on one of my first research trips, to the library at Brown, and he helped support my trip by hiring me to give Brown’s theater students a movement workshop. Our friendship developed, partly because we were both academics who’d made our own way from non-academic backgrounds.

    Later, he was the reason I wrote my book, Education of a Circus Clown. We went out to eat after an event at the Drama Book Shop, and when he asked about my latest work, I mentioned I’d been noodling with a memoir about my circus experience but put it on hold after I got stuck. It seemed to want to be more about learning the craft of comedy with live audiences. Don replied that seemed like a helpful block and then, the author’s dream, he said I should write it for the series he edited.

    He gave that kind of support and encouragement to many, many people. A prince? Even better, he was a mensch.


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