Philadelphia Theatre Company mourns the loss of Philadelphia cultural icon Suzanne Roberts. Roberts had a transformative effect on the landscape of Philadelphia, especially its vast arts and cultural community. Her death is a devastating moment for the region’s arts scene and hits especially close to home for Philadelphia Theatre Company, as both she and her husband Ralph Roberts, (the Comcast founder and CEO who died in 2015), had a long-standing relationship with the theatre. Roberts was at the forefront of Philadelphia Theatre Company’s transformation, as the company christened the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts, which opened in 2007 and has been PTC’s home ever since. The Suzanne Roberts Foundation continued to lead PTC’s major gifts on an annual basis.
“Suzanne’s legacy will be the transformative effect she had on the cultural landscape of Philadelphia – her belief in and dedication to the artistic talent in the region will be felt for generations to come,” said Philadelphia Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. “For PTC, she championed a new world-class theatre for the city that would bring renewed life to the Avenue of the Arts. In fact, her very own signature graces the marquee of the theatre, representing her vibrant and colorful aesthetic. For decades, she has always offered us her unwavering support and friendship in ways we couldn’t have imagined. She was a generous performer at heart, and all future performances at the theatre will celebrate her truly unique spirit. Suzanne’s astonishing vivacity will be sorely missed as we say goodbye to one of the greatest supporters of the arts in our lifetime.”
Roberts was 98 at the time of her passing. She led a dynamic life as an actress, civic educator, children’s therapist, broadcaster, and philanthropist. Born in the Philadelphia area, her love of theatre led her to study the Stanislavski Method of acting at the Tamara Daykarhanova School of the Stage in New York. Her performances on many of Philadelphia’s biggest stages included roles in The Lion in Winter, Lysistrata, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, and Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She last took to the stage in 2001, at Hedgerow Theatre Company in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters.
She was a voiceover artist, as well, appearing on the CBS show A Dramatization of the Classics, and the weekly show This Week in Philadelphia. Afterward, NBC named her the “Number One Radio Actress in Philadelphia.” Her radio work led Mayor Richardson Dilworth and U.S. Sen. Joseph Clark to invite her to write and direct their radio and TV campaigns. In 1952, she turned her pioneering experience in radio and television into one of the first books on the subject, The Candidate and Television.
Roberts was a frequent presence on local TV. Her most successful venture began in 2001 when, at age 80, sensing a lack of programming for seniors, she started five-minute segments called Seeking Solutions With Suzanne, which aired on Comcast’s channel CN8 and CNN Headline News for almost two decades. In the segments, which later expanded to a half-hour, she underwent cataract surgery, took tap-dancing lessons, belly-danced, and rode a motorcycle, showing seniors that they could do anything. The programs earned two Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards and she continued hosting until her 98th year.
An avid volunteer in many areas, both Roberts and her husband gave millions to the arts – especially theatre and dance, which she attended regularly. The Suzanne F. Roberts Cultural Development Fund, which she created, encouraged dance and theater companies in the area, making her one of their largest supporters.
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY
Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience.
Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 153 world and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. PTC has received more than 201 nominations and 55 awards from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor with the opening of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.