Director with cues for future

``There is no easy path for anyone in the arts,'' says Lloyd Richards. His own path has brought him to the nation's top post in theater education: dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theater. But it hasn't always been easy. Born in Toronto, son of a carpenter, Richards grew up in Detroit and studied at Wayne State University. After serving in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, he spent several years as a disc jockey in Detroit before taking up acting in New York. There he spent two years on a radio serial, ``Hotel for Pets,'' appeared on television shows ranging from ``Hallmark Hall of Fame'' to ``The Guiding Light,'' and played various roles in Off Broadway and Broadway productions.

After several directing stints with Michigan theaters, Richards became the first black director on Broadway when, in 1959, he directed Sidney Poitier in the highly successful ``A Raisin in the Sun.'' Since then, he has directed several other Broadway plays, including ``Paul Robeson'' with James Earl Jones. He also directed a segment of Alex Haley's television series, ``Roots.''

Keenly interested in art that addresses profound subjects, Richards is in the forefront of the search for new plays. ``I can understand people becoming frustrated by solutions that don't solve,'' says Richards, who since 1969 has been artistic director of the nation's most important workshop for new plays, the National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill Theater Center.

``I think we would all like to know that there are answers and it will all fit together -- and we can make it fit together,'' he says, adding, ``I think that's why we go on.''

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