Joel Markowitz, Founder and Editor Emeritus of DC Metro Theater Arts, died in his home this afternoon after a battle with Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, his brother Bruce Markowitz announced today.
His death marked a sad end to a rich and unusual life which was characterized by his love of theater and of the benighted sports teams of his home town of Buffalo, New York. Anyone who knew him knows he was a dynamic, almost relentlessly enthusiastic supporter of all things theater in DC and elsewhere. He had a remarkable facility to work with others. “I always remember to thank them,” he said, by way of explaining his ability to recruit a large group of writers to DC Metro Theater Arts, which, in 2012, he co-founded with his brother, Bruce.
Joel, who celebrated his sixtieth birthday last May, brought a sharp intellect and deep knowledge of musicals to bear on his passion for theater.
He first came to the attention of the DC theatergoing public in 1991, when he formed The Ushers, a group of theater enthusiasts. The Ushers attended theater in DC and New York, and then staged vigorous discussions of what they saw while eating sumptuous meals in local restaurants afterward.
It was in this capacity that he first appeared in DC Theatre Scene in a 2006 article entitled “Rise of Joel Markowitz’ House of Usher.” The account of his giddy theater adventures got so much response that soon he was writing for DC Theatre Scene. Joel occasionally reviewed shows, but his métier was the interview. He was equally at ease interviewing Broadway superstars as he was encouraging young actors.
Browse through our podcast archives to discover more gems by Joel Markowitz
I once wrote: “If life is a musical, Joel holds the baton.” That pretty much sums up the energy, intelligence and humor he brought to DCTS and to the entire theatre community. In his column Theatre Schmooze he often wrote about exceptional performances – ‘stars of the future’ he called them.
After five years with DCTS, he left to become the editor of Maryland Theatre Guide, and in his relatively brief tenure there developed a full staff of reviewers capable of taking on DC’s formidable theater season. But he longed for a publication that would express his feelings about the theatre community and so, along with his brother Bruce, Joel formed DC Metro Theater Arts, which he continued to edit until his illness made that no longer possible.
In May of this year, at a cabaret held in his honor at MetroStage, Joel received the DCTS Gary Maker Award, presented each year to an audience member who most typifies Maker’s joyous and giving love of theater. In the true sense of the Award, there was no one more deserving than Joel.
Carolyn Griffin, Artistic Director of MetroStage wrote: “Joel gave his heart and soul to theatre—to the actors, to the theatres, to the producers, to everyone involved in making a production happen on stage. He understood the commitment it required from all involved. He valued it, he treasured it, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of his love for the art form and for his love and commitment to all of us. He made a great contribution to Washington area theatre and beyond, and he will be desperately missed but never forgotten. Sending love to Joel’s family.”
Joel Markowitz was a unique man who leaves all of us with lessons on how to live a life of love, friendship and service. He is survived by five brothers, numerous nieces and nephews, and thousands of friends and fellow theater lovers. We will all miss him immoderately.