In Memory

Richard Cordtz

Richard Cordtz, ‘The King of Lights,’ is dead at 55

A Lower East Side resident for the past 30 years, Richard Cordtz died March 2 at St. Luke’s Hospital at age 55. He had suffered a massive stroke at his home 18 days earlier.

Cordtz was a singer, producer, director and a well-known set and lighting designer, known to some by the nickname “The King of Lights.” He is responsible for the colorful, sparkly strands of lights that drape the side of his apartment building near the corner of Bowery and E. Houston St. just south of the new Avalon Christie Place building with the Whole Foods Market. His sisters turned them on the night of his stroke and will leave them on until they burn out. 

Cordtz was associate designer on productions ranging from Tom O’Horgan’s “Senator Joe” at the Neil Simon Theater to Max Roach’s concerts at Avery Fisher Hall, as well as several national and international tours of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair,” Sam Shepard’s “States of Shock” and “Mister” and Fred Rogers’s last opera, “Josephine, the Short-necked Giraffe,” shown annually on PBS.

He was a designer for Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theatre Company, and had a long working relationship with Judson Church, where he was a soloist in the choir. Cordtz lit the revival of Al Carmines’s “Christmas Rappings” there in December, and directed productions for the church’s centennial year.

Cordtz graduated from Stanford University in 1973 and attended the London Academy of Dramatic Arts. He sang in a cabaret act with his friend from Stanford, pianist Hugh McCarten, as “Dr. Wendell and Mr. Hugh,” and also founded the Stanford Group, which funded other artists’ projects for many years.

Cordtz had a long personal and professional collaboration with Mexican actress Anjelica Aragon and lit and directed her in plays in Mexico City.

He is survived by his partner Bill Stabile of New York City, his parents Milly Cordtz of Rye, N.Y., and Dan Cordtz of Miami, his sisters Wendy Eaton of New York City and Kay Cordtz of Patchogue, N.Y., and brother Jeff Cordtz of Atlanta, eight nieces and nephews and dear friends too numerous to mention.

A memorial was held on Saturday at the Rye Presbyterian Church in Rye, N.Y. There will be a celebration of his life at Judson Church this summer.


Volume 20, Number 44 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 14 - 20, 2008




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08/23/08 01:47 PM #1    

Keith Morgan

That saddens me greatly. Richard was a superb actor, brilliant student, intense in all he did, but in the best way. A good friend who took us as we came. Willing to share his insights, humor and skills. Good memories from an all-too-brief association.

08/26/08 01:38 PM #2    

Annette Woodhams (Gorey)

Here is a link to Richard's obituary:

09/08/08 01:56 AM #3    

Jeremy E. Reifsnyder

I was deeply saddened to read the news of Richard's death. Reviewing the obituary, it seems he died just this year, in March. He was a terrific person -- sensitive, funny, and intelligent. We spent a lot of good times together, acting in the Firebugs our sophomore year, Antigone and Camelot (I stage managed both productions) our junior year, and Aria da Capo/A Tale of Chelm our senior year. We sang together for three years in the Chorus and Madrigals. He had a rich, smooth bass voice and a presence on stage that was well beyond his years, yet he was a teenager just like the rest of us. After high school we saw each other in New York several times -- he took me to a party at the home of Leroy Neiman's brother's apartment once that was a "happening". I lost track of him when I went overseas in college. I'm very sorry we never connected again. May his soul rest in peace.

09/17/08 11:50 AM #4    

Rob Sherwood (Guest)

Richard Cordtz was my sophomore English teacher--Miss Monica McMindes'--"pet," "protege," and prodigy. He was mature, self-assured, and already "Mr. Theater." He had the presence to actually act and contribute and laugh heartily--whereas I, who so secretly admired and longed for attention from McMindes, just hung back and took in their "mutual admiration society." Richard could deliver anything on a stage!

10/21/08 06:45 PM #5    

Kathy Trout (Horvath)

I got to know Richard my Senior year. We became close friends and went to the Prom together.

Richard was sophisticated even as a Senior. I visited him in NYC in the summer of 1970, and he was even more so. Doing New York City with Richard was a treat.

I'm glad to know he went on in the theatre world and became "The King of Lights."

02/23/09 03:58 PM #6    

Joan May (Harden)

How weird and sad to know that someone who was so very alive and vibrant is no longer with us. I am so happy for him that he had a life in the theatre.

Richard was one of my first dates in high school--maybe the first? His parents chauffered, and he introduced me to Gilbert & Sullivan and to plays at the Ford theatre. He was so far ahead of anybody else i knew our age, and I will always be grateful to him for broadening my horizons.
He was a dear person.

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