Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lowe earned all curtain calls

Cleveland Press January 27, 1971

K. Elmo Lowe is dead and more than just an era has ended for the Play House. With his death yesterday the Play House lost a vital and important link with its past.

Lowe was one of the triumvirate who arrived at the Play House in 1921 when that institution was a young amateur group about to turn professional, and whose home then was at the corner of Cedar Ave.and E.73d St.

The other two were Frederic McConnell, the theater's first professional director, and Max Eisenstat. All three were from the drama department of Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh.

LOWE SUCCEEDED McConnell in 1958, and retired two years ago. Now the last of the triumvirate is dead.

Unlike most theater executives Lowe was well-known to the public at large. He acted in hundreds of plays over the years, directed many of them as well.

Tall, handsome, with a leonine head, Lowe was Cleveland's own matinee idol. He was quick to smile. He talked in polysyllables and he digressed frequently in his conversations for he knew more than his share of theatrical anecdotes. The habit made interviews difficult but enjoyable.

I IN HIS BOOK-LINED office Lowe would jump up from his desk, pace, pause, run his fingers through his disheveled hair, skitter from one topic to another, sometimes reach for a volume to read a favorite passage. His was the kind of enthusiasm that was infectious. It undoubtedly helped carry the Play House through difficult times.

In brief, he was theatrical. Whatever his other talents-and they were many - he also looked and acted the part of a man of the theater.

In a season when the Play House has been searching for the right combination of plays, it is interesting to look back at the kind of schedules Lowe put together. In his last year as director there were such unusual items as "The United States vs. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg" and such traditional ones as "The Male Animal."

FOR THE 50TH anniversary season of the Play House he put together a group of plays that included "Dylan," "Our Town" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in addition to Shaw, Shakespeare, Moliere and Jean Kerr.

His life spanned the move to the present theaters and the transformation of a community theater group into a professional resident theater-now the oldest in the country.

He was there when it started.

At the Play House the company will continue with its work this week, but undoubtedly with heavy hearts.

"IN THE SPIRIT of his theater credo the Play House will continue uninterrupted in performance this week," director Richard Oberlin said last night.

Oberlin recalled Lowe as ". . . a man whose creed was based on getting the job done with energy of purpose and dignity. All who came to him in the theater could not help being impressed by his integrity, his warmth and his greatness. He was a gentleman, a theater giant, my mentor and friend."

Kenyon Bolton, president of Play House trustees, said Lowe's death is a great loss to the community and the theater world.

"He was a perfectionist insistent on quality," Bolton said. "But he had the joyful spirit of the theater, especially of the living theater."