"Judevine" creator, Vermont poet and playwright David Budbill, dead at 76
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont poet and playwright David Budbill died at his home Sunday at the age of 76.
Budbill wrote seven books of poems, including "Judevine, The Complete Poems," which was produced at Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington. He also wrote other plays (among them, "A Song For My Father," which had its world premiere at Lost Nation Theatre in Montpelier in April 2010 and was subsequently produced at Oldcastle in August 2010), a novel, and a picture book for children, among other works.
Budbill told Vermont Public Radio in late June that he was diagnosed more than a year before with a rare form of Parkinson's Disease.
Budbill was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 13, 1940, the son of a streetcar driver and a minister's daughter. He studied philosophy and art history at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio and earned a graduate degree in theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1965. He moved to northern Vermont in 1969, where he lived in Wolcott for four decades before moving to Montpelier earlier this year with his wife, artust Lois Eby, who survives. He also is survived by his daughter, poet Nadine Wolf Budbill.
Among his honors are a 1981 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry and the Vermont Arts Council's 2002 Walter Cerf Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from New England College in Henniker, N.H.
Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, says for many people Budbill was the Vermont state poet. He says his poetry captures a combination of the language and feeling of being in Vermont as a Vermonter would experience it.
Over the course of his life, Budbill worked as a carpenter's apprentice, short order cook, mental hospital attendant, church pastor. He was a musician and a frequent commentator for NPR. But writing was his passion and his life. He wrote seven books of poems, one novel, one picture book for children, a collection of short stories, numerous essays, an opera libretto, and eight plays, the most notable of which is "Judevine."
Designed to be performed by an ensemble of anywhere from six to a dozen or more actors, "Judevine" chronicles the lives of a group of people who live in the hills and valleys of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.
Between its two-act and three-act versions, "Judevine" has had 65 productions in 26 states over the past 30 or so years. American Conservatory Theatre's 1991 production in San Francisco and won the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble Performance.
In the Berkshires/Green Mountains region, "Judevine" has had four full productions at Oldcastle Theatre Company in 1988, 1989, 1996, and 2004, and a benefit reading with Budbill in the cast in 2008. The play also has had full productions at Lost Nation Theatre (2007) and Dorset Theatre Festival (2007) in Vermont and Connecticut Repertory Theatre (2004) in Storrs.
"I will always be proud of our 'Judevine' productions," Oldcastle's producing artistic director, Eric Peterson, said in an e-mail. "He never received the recognition he deserved for his work but the words will live."
Berkshire Eagle arts and entertainment editor and theater critic Jeffrey Borak contributed material to this article.
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