Don B. Wilmeth

Don B. Wilmeth

On Feb. 7, 2020, Don B. Wilmeth, 80, a resident of Keene and formerly of Providence, R.I., died after a long illness.

He was born in Houston, the son of Perry D. Wilmeth and Pauline Goodrum Wilmeth, and was preceded in death by both parents and his sister, Elizabeth Wilmeth Pickle.

He is survived by his wife, Judy Hansgen Wilmeth, his son, Michael Tyler Wilmeth, and granddaughter, Hazel Bailey Wilmeth.

Don was awarded a doctorate in theatre in 1964 by the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He taught at Brown University for 36 years, 16 as chair of the theatre department.

Don was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982 and was the author, editor, co-editor or series editor of over four dozen books, including the award-winning three-volume “Cambridge History of American Theatre.” For a dozen years he was series editor for Cambridge University Press’s “Studies in American Theatre and Drama” and subsequently edited Palgrave Macmillan’s “Studies in Theatre and Performance History.” In recent years he also taught at Smith College, Tufts University and Trinity University in Texas.

Don is considered a pioneer in the serious study of American popular entertainment — he has been an on-screen interviewee for PBS specials on Houdini and Annie Oakley; and an established authority on the history of American theater and drama. A former president of the American Society for Theatre Research and dean emeritus of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, Don Wilmeth recently served as vice president of the International Shaw Society, and as a member of the board of the Theatre Library Association. He was the recipient of career and research recognitions from the New England Theatre Conference, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the Society for Theatre Research (UK), the American Society for Theatre Research and the Theatre Library Association. The Association for Theatre in Higher Education also honored him for his work as an editor. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Mr. Wilmeth was also an actor — recently Buffalo Bill in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Capt. Hook in the musical “Peter Pan” — and director, and an ardent collector of theatre and entertainment ephemera and memorabilia, as well as books on the history of the theatre. In Keene he served with the Historical Society, the Keene Public Library, MoCo, the Hourglass Readers and contributed many books to Keene State’s library.

Services will be private and managed by the Cremation Society of New Hampshire.