Playwright and librettist Bridgette Wimberly passed away December 1 following complications related to a series of strokes. News of her passing was confirmed by her family to The New York Times. Ms. Wimberly was 68.
Born January 7, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Wimberly was initially a medical researcher, working at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before moving into the writing sphere later in life. In 1997, she participated in a directing workshop at Lincoln Center, and a writing exercise soon blossomed into her play Saint Lucy's Eyes, set in a 1968 Memphis tenement where a grandmother conducts an illegal abortion behind closed doors.
The play was a triumph, initially staged at the Women's Project Theater before being brought Off-Broadway to the Cherry Lane Theater. Much of her work continued to be related to medical issues such as her play about Cleveland's first integrated hospital, Forest City, but in 2014 she would venture even closer to home by stepping into the world of opera.
The niece of a jazz saxophonist, Ms. Wimberly was raised to hate legendary jazz musician Charlie Parker due to her grandmother's staunch belief that Parker had hooked her uncle on heroin, a drug that would kill both men. When composer Daniel Schnyder approached her to write the libretto of what became Charlie Parker's Yardbird, Ms. Wimberly accepted with some trepidation. Her hesitance soon bloomed into genuine interest, and the jazz infused chamber opera was lauded for its genuine approach to the relationships Parker had, in particular with the women who surrounded him.
Initially premiering in Philadelphia, the opera later played the Apollo Theater, and has since been staged by the Seattle Opera, Arizona Opera, and many more, with an upcoming production set for later this month at the New Orleans Opera.
Ms. Wimberly is survived by her mother, her brother, and her sister.