Andrew Leynse, the long-time artistic director of Primary Stages, died January 20 following a sudden illness.
Mr. Leynse was born in California, but moved with his family to New York City at age eight. His mother exposed him to Broadway and Off-Broadway at a young age, sparking a life-long passion for the art form. When his high school did not have a drama department, he created a drama club, writing and directing plays for his fellow theatre friends to perform. During this time, he interned at Playwrights Horizons under artistic director André Bishop and worked on his first professional theatre production, Lucky Stiff by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
Mr. Leynse graduated with a BFA in directing in 1992 from Carnegie Mellon University, where he met actor Mary Bacon, whom he married in 1997. He began his career with the Off-Broadway theatre company Primary Stages shortly after graduation, serving as literary manager and production manager. He left Primary Stages to associate produce alongside Julian Schlossberg at Castle Hill Productions, but returned to the theatre company only three years later as artistic director.
It is perhaps his dedication to new works and young writers for which he will best be remembered in his career. In his 21-year tenure leading Primary Stages, Leynse was director and founding member of the Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group and helped launch the Primary Stages/Fordham MFA in Playwriting and the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA).
Mr. Leynse produced numerous new works from established playwrights, including David Ives, Charles Busch, Theresa Rebeck, Terrance McNally, Donald Margulies, Horton Foote, and more. He also introduced countless new writers to New York theatre audiences, among them Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter, Kate Hamill, and Billy Porter.
Primary Stages shared a statement on Mr. Leynse's passing: "We have lost one of the dearest, kindest, most devoted people we have ever known. Andrew was our light and our heart, and his passing diminishes us all. We are grateful for every day we had with him, and know he touched so many of you, both personally and artistically. Please hold his incredible family, especially his wife Mary, son Abadi, brother James, and sister Anne in your hearts—we know this is the first thing he would have asked of all of us.
Andrew’s dedication to playwrights and the theatre launched dozens of careers and brought hundreds of new plays to life. His work had an incredible and indelible contribution to the American theatre, and his vision and generosity will never be forgotten."
Mr. Leynse is survived by his wife Mary Bacon, son Abadi Leynse, brother James Leynse, sister Anne Bullock, beloved dog Oreo, and a community of artists, friends, and extended family. A memorial service for the wider theatre community to pay tribute will be scheduled at a later date.