Esther Merle Jackson

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Esther Merle Jackson

Dermott, Chicot County, Arkansas, USA
Death 1 Aug 2006 (aged 83)
Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 15695508 View Source
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Esther believed in the power of theater to transform lives and culture - and that much of the power of American playwrights and their plays remained untapped.

Long a drama professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jackson earned an international reputation as an expert on American theater, especially on playwright Tennessee Williams. She did not act or direct, but took a more academic approach as she inspired drama students.

Jackson was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 16 years ago. She died of complications of such at the age of 83.

The oldest of six children, Jackson was born in Dermott, Ark., and raised in El Dorado, Ark., attending segregated schools of the day.
Jackson went to the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia. She graduated at 19, soon teaching speech and drama at Arkansas AM&N, now part of the University of Arkansas. Jackson earned her master's and doctorate in drama from Ohio State University.

She taught at other colleges, including the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). She was appointed to serve as the first theater and drama specialist with the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. She joined the UW faculty in 1969.

That did not mean that Jackson was not tested. She was appointed to a committee charged with reviewing grant requests, responsible for evaluating proposals that included genetics and physics.

Professionally, Jackson became best known for an early book, "The Broken World of Tennessee Williams." She received two Fulbrights and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She became the first vice president for research with the American Theater Association, a forerunner of the American Association for Theater Education.

Jackson and Ezell were among those who worked to establish the Institute of American Theatre Studies, with the goal of encouraging a more academic and comprehensive study of American plays and how they might be staged to their full potential. She also was interested in exploring whether America was ready for a national theater company.

Neither of those efforts really got off the ground, but raising the issues helped bring changes on other levels, he said.

Sister of Naomi Petty, Grace Edward and Bobby Jean Cope.

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