Joan Stein dies at 59; Tony-winning theater and TV producer


Joan Stein, a Tony-winning theater and television producer who helped to launch several long-running L.A. stage productions, including “Love Letters,” “Forever Plaid” and Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” has died. She was 59.

Stein died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centerin Los Angeles. A Hollywood resident, she had been diagnosed four weeks ago with a rare type of cancer affecting the appendix, said her husband, Ted Weiant.

In 1999, Stein won a Tony Award as one of the producers of the Broadway play “Side Man,” a drama set in the postwar jazz world. Her other Broadway producing credits include the recent musicals “Catch Me If You Can” and “9 to 5,” as well as the 2002 revival of”The Elephant Man.”

Stein and her producing partner, Susan Dietz, ran the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills for 10 years. Their first success was A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” which opened in 1990, and featured a rotating cast of celebrities. While at the Canon, Stein also produced Stuart Ross’ “Forever Plaid” and Marvin Laird and Joel Paley’s musical spoof “Ruthless!”

Stein left the Canon in 2000 to pursue a career in television, and the theater closed in 2004.

“We had fun and we did good work. She was a sister to me for those 10 years,” Dietz said.

Stein also was a producer of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” that opened in 1994 at the Westwood Playhouse, now the Geffen Playhouse. Martin’s play, which envisioned a connection between the artist and Albert Einstein at a Paris bar, became a hit and ran for more than 300 performances.

“People say, ‘You can’t make a living in the theater in L.A.,’” Stein told The Times in 1995 in the midst of the “Picasso” success. “Well, everybody in my office is wearing clothes, driving cars, paying rent. They’re making a living in the theater.”

After leaving the Canon Theatre, Stein formed a TV production company with Martin and collaborated on several projects.

Stein’s recent stage projects included “Motherhood Out Loud,” which ran at Primary Stages in New York and at the Geffen Playhouse in 2011 under the title “In Mother Words.” She also produced “Standing on Ceremony,” a series of plays about gay marriage, that ran at the Largo at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles.

Her stage career also included a stint as the managing director of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

Stein was born June 7, 1953, in New York City. She graduated from the State University of New York in Albany after majoring in English.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sisters and her mother.