On Sunday (June 3, 2012) Gregory R. Tate, 60, died from lung cancer. Tate was a commanding presence in Hartford and its theater scene. Together with Julia Rosenblatt and Steve Ginsburg, he founded HartBeat Ensemble. Their mission - to write and perform theater that asks questions, raises public consciousness, and rouses audiences into action - was something that Tate lived every day. Born January 26th, 1952 to Oscar and Bertha Tate in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He was the 5th of 6 children. He grew up closely with all his siblings, but because of their ages, he developed a particularly close relationship with his younger sister Desiree and his older brother Pete (Oscar). Tate graduated with honors from the Chicago Public School system in 1969. Growing up on Chicago's South Side, he would often accompany his sister and Aunt Velma (also fondly given the name Bim by Tate) to the Woolworths lunch counter, dressed in his Sunday's finest. Desiree and Tate didn't know the significance of their visits to Woolworths until they grew older and learned that just years prior, Aunt Bim was unable to freely go to those lunch counters. Once Tate's father passed away, he and his older brothers become patriarchs of the Tate Family. After the death of his brothers Fred and Bob, Tate took on the role of a father figure to all of his nieces and nephews, especially Michael, Jennifer, and Ashley. His creative spirit grew restless in the Midwest and he ventured to the West Coast. Tate received his BFA from the University of Southern California in 1979. After spending several years creating theater and wreaking havoc in Napa Valley, he moved to San Francisco to work at the Eureka Theater. Tate then spent thirteen years developing his craft with the Mime Troupe, the oldest collectively run theater company in the U.S. During this time, Tate also traveled to South Africa to work with the Soweto Youth Drama Society on a play about AIDS. But it was in Hartford that Tate made his home and where his work culminated in memorable performances, such as Graves, Ebeneeza, and, most recently, Flipside, which Tate directed to critical acclaim. Tate also taught at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, at UCONN and served as vice president on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Perhaps, above all else, he will be remembered for the scores of youth (and adults) he mentored in using the arts as a form of self-discovery and consciousness raising. Tate did not separate his life from his work. He lived in a collective household known simply as "Warrenton." He was Uncle Tate to the grandchildren of his Hartford Rosenblatt family, including his beloved Tessa and Elijah. Tate was a big man, whose passions resembled his stature—whether it was watching the Chicago Bears and old films, arguing the politics of class, race, and gender oppression, eating "lairuppin food," or spending time with his life partner, Karen Kessler — he lived fully, and wonderfully. No doubt Tate would expect all of us who mourn his life to find our way forward with renewed commitment to making the world a better place.
A memorial service will be held on June 30th at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford. For more details, visit http://gregtateupdates.wordpress.com/. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Greg Tate Memorial Apprentice Program, HartBeat Ensemble, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford,CT. 06103.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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