Attilio “Buck” Favorini, who founded the University’s Department of Theatre Arts in 1982 and the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival (1980-1993), died Jan. 22, 2022.
Favorini joined the Pitt faculty in 1969, having received the Richard Lanpher Fellowship from Yale and graduating with a Ph.D. in the history of theater. In 1971, he became head of the University’s Theatre Arts Division, which by 1982 he had shaped into a department. He was its head and chair for 27 years, including many years as director of graduate studies — another program he had shepherded.
Annmarie Duggan, whom Favorini hired in 2006 to take over as chair, worked with him until his retirement in 2013.
“He was lovely — a great colleague,” she recalled. “He had formed the department, so he brought all the important information with him. I used him as a model. He was really supportive, both as a colleague and then as an emeritus.
“There is a department because of him,” she said. “He was a man who when he thought it should get done, he got it done. He loved all students but … he was so proud of the graduate program. I can’t say enough about how he formed it and how well it worked under him.
“He was passionate about the plays that we did,” she added, which included the Gammage Project, for which Favorini received the 2012 Artistic Achievement award from the Pittsburgh Black Political Empowerment Project. The play explored the death of Jonny Gammage, a black man who died during a 1995 encounter with police in suburban Pittsburgh. The production, for which Duggan designed the lighting, first played on campus and then the August Wilson Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
“I want him to be remembered as a great teacher and a great champion of theater at the University of Pittsburgh,” Duggan said, “and a great champion of all students he crossed paths with.”
During his decades at Pitt, he oversaw the construction or renovation of the Charity Randall Theatre, the Henry Heymann Theatre and the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre. He served on many University committees, founding the sustainability subcommittee of the University Senate. He also was academic dean of Semester-at-Sea for the fall 1986 voyage. His Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program served more than 100,000 area students and teachers for more than two decades with performances, workshops and residencies.
Favorini served on the boards of the American Society for Theatre Research, the National Association of Schools of Theatre and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. He received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and support from the Public Committee for the Humanities in Pennsylvania.
In 1979, he earned an award for distinguished service to the profession for his decade editing the American Society for Theatre Research journal. Pittsburgh magazine named him Pittsburgher of the Year in the Arts in 1989 in recognition of the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, which he directed for 13 seasons.
Favorini published an anthology on documentary theater and his first play, “Steel/City,” written with Gil Elvgren, made several local year-end best lists. He also produced the Jewish Play Festival and Conference on Jewish Playwriting in 1983; his play “In the Garden of Live Flowers,” written with Lynne Conner, won the Kennedy Center David Mark Cohen award in 2002.
In addition, he authored the plays “Hearts and Diamonds” (1980), “Yearbook” (1993), “Rachel Carson Saves the Day!” (2006) and “Lessons from the Birds” (2010) — all of which had Pittsburgh settings and subjects. His productions ran in theaters across the country, from Lexington and Chicago to Los Angeles and Houston, and one was featured on the “Today” show in 1976.
He also worked to keep other local theaters alive, for a time reviving the old Pittsburgh Playhouse, which morphed into the Pittsburgh 99¢ Floating Theatre Festival, which specialized in avant-garde productions. He secured a grant to form the City Theatre Company out of another company that had lost its performance space, hiring Marc Masterson as artistic director for its 11-year run at the University.
He is survived by his wife, Lisa; children Francis Favorini, Marie (Ben Frandzel) Favorini, Anton (Sarah Larson) Favorini-Csorba and Francesca (Luca Nygren) Favorini-Csorba; grandson Jeno Favorini-Larson and sister Cecilia (Robert) Balog and many cousins, a nephew and a niece. ‘
A local memorial is planned for this spring.
— Marty Levine