About Richard L. Coe
Richard Livingston Coe (1914–1995), born in New York City, was a theatre and cinema critic for The Washington Post for more than fifty years. Coe was renowned for the astute advice he gave to many pre-Broadway try-out companies. His adroit and knowledgeable commentary is credited with persuading producers to make changes vital to the ultimate success of Hello, Dolly!, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and many other shows. Coe's enormous love of the theatre made him fierce when he thought that actors, directors or producers had not lived up to their best potential, but more often it made him sensitive to the nuances of good work, supportive of the best endeavors, and wise in educating audiences and encouraging their support of the live theatre.
Coe, arguably, unlike other critics of his time, was considered a unique critic, who expressed more of the positive rather than the negative in his support for actors in his years of writing for the Washington Post, and often took license with his own "gut" opinions.
One of the more notable contributions to Washington theatre by Coe, among others, are Coe's early efforts, and editorial participation to establish a theater worthy of the nation's capital. That theater, after many years of indecisiveness, is known today as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.. He is also credited for being a major voice in the effort to end racial discrimination of African Americans attending The National Theatre (Washington, D.C.), prior to the civil rights movement in the United States.
Coe was a close friend of Washington native and actress, Helen Hayes, "First Lady of the American Theatre", and was contacted by a group of individuals seeking to secure her participation in establishing The Helen Hayes Awards, also in Washington, D.C.
Coe received the Critic of the Year award by the Directors Guild of America in 1963, and is an inductee in The College of Fellows of the American Theatre.
He became Theatre Critic Emeritus of The Washington Post in 1979.
Richard Coe was preceded in death by his wife, journalist Christine Sadler, former Washington Post staff writer and Washington editor of McCall's Magazine.