Oakley — a Grin on His Face
Very sad to hear this morning of the passing of Oakley Hall III. Below, the mail just sent out by his family. Oakley had a complex, difficult life as a man and artist — with great successes against the odds after his fall. Only this past year did he finish & publish a marvelous book, Jarry and Me: The Autobiography of Alfred Jarry for which I wrote the following blurb: “Is this Alfred Jarry finally writing Oakley Hall III’s autobiography or the other way around? It reads — magnificently — as both at the same time, thus as another instance of that hidden wisdom: we are never only one, but always the occasion of many. Maybe it is Ubu himself fondling the hen, I mean holding the pen? Was there ever pathos in Pataphysics? If not, here it is: one bridge further, Oakley Hall III is at it again, biosplicing his & Jarry’s life in the theater and Jarry and his theater in life. You are hereby introduced into the Hall of Post-Pataphysics.” A shame and infinitely triste that Oakley had to leave us so soon.
We are sorry to announce that Oakley Hall III, “Tad,” died of a heart attack this past weekend. He was 60 years old. Oakley Hall III, eldest son of the late novelist Oakley Hall, was a playwright, director, and author. In the mid-70s, when he was a rising star in the New York theatre scene, his play Mike Fink was optioned by Joseph Papp of the Public Theatre. He founded and was the Artistic Director of the legendary Lexington Conservatory Theatre, in upstate New York, where his plays Grinder’s Stand and Beatrice and the Old Man, and his adaptation of Frankenstein enjoyed their premiere productions. Lexington Conservatory Theatre moved to Albany in 1979 and continues today as Albany Rep.
In 1978, Oakley suffered traumatic and massive head injuries in a fall from a bridge. He eventually returned to California to live in Nevada City near his family; his play Grinder’s Stand was produced by the Foothill Theatre Company, directed by Philip Sneed. The story of this production, entwined with Oakley’s fall and the slow process of creating a new life, are movingly told in Bill Rose’s award-winning documentary, The Loss of Nameless Things.
Oakley made a life-long study of the surrealist playwright, Alfred Jarry, and over the years translated several of his plays from the original French. In 2008, Hall moved to Albany, New York, to live with Hadiya Wilborn, who helped set in motion a collaboration with acclaimed puppeteer Ed Atkeson. This resulted in a production of one of those translated plays, Ubu Roi, at an Albany theater, Steamer 10, directed by Oakley, with Steven Patterson in the title role. In the fall of 2010, Moving Finger Press published Oakley’s novel, Jarry and Me, in which Oakley intertwines a memoir of his own life with a sly “autobiography” of Jarry. One of the last sentences of the book is, “Jarry dies with a grin on his face.” We are told that Oakley too had a grin on his face, at the end. As Oakley would say: “Merdre.”
He is survived by his two children, Oakley and Elizabeth, his mother, Barbara E. Hall, his sisters Sands Hall, Tracy Hall, and Brett Hall Jones, four loving nephews and a niece—Justin, Nico, Hunter, Dashiell, and Emma—and his cherie, Hadiya Wilborn.