Roscoe Lee Browne passed away last week at the age of 81. He was an accomplished actor with a vast body of work in film, stage, and television, and he possessed one of the most distinctive voices an actor could possibly be blessed with. Among his many credits, he co-wrote Behind the Broken Words, an evening of poetry and dramatic readings celebrating the works of such artists as e.e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, which he produced and starred in along with his friend Anthony Zerbe (a distinguished actor in his own right). Browne and Zerbe originally conceived the show in Los Angeles in the early ’70s, and performed it in theaters throughout the country every year for over three decades.
I met Browne briefly in April 2001, after watching he and Zerbe perform Words at the Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center in Santa Rosa. It was the second time I’d seen the show – I’d not only seen them perform it at Stanford in 1998 (after learning about it the year before, in the course of interviewing Zerbe for a magazine article), but wrote about it as a special piece for New Media Review. It’s a marvelous evening that, as I’ve said before, continues to remind me of why I became a writer in the first place. Browne was kind and gracious, and as I shook his hand I thanked him for stirring so many memories.
May he rest in peace.