May 26, 1922 – Oct. 25, 2017
Long before Nike adopted its famous slogan, Buffalo director and SUNY Buffalo State professor Warren Enters was spreading it like gospel through Buffalo's theater community.
"He would just say, 'Do it! Stop talking about it. Do it,' " said television writer and producer Tom Fontana, Enters' former protégé and Buffalo State student. "He pushed us, not only to be better people, better writers, better directors, but also to be out in the world and experience the world fully."
Dozens of other former students, cast members and colleagues took Enters' advice. It was always same notion phrased different ways, as in the plaque that adorned Enters' desk at Buffalo State. It read: "I mean, do something."
Enters, who served as the longtime associate director of Studio Arena Theatre and had an influential teaching career at Buffalo State, died Wednesday in his home in Salem, near the Vermont border, after a short illness. He was 95.
Enters was born in Milwaukee, Wisc., and served in the Navy during World War II, commanding a submarine chaser off the coast of Maine and Massachusetts and later training members of the Philippine navy. Upon his discharge, Enters returned to New York City, where he formed a small off-Broadway company called Proscenium Productions at the Cherry Lane Theatre.
In 1955, with his partners Robert Merriman and Sybil Trubin, Enters won the first-ever Tony Award presented to an off-Broadway theater for his work on "The Way of the World" and "Thieves Carnival." Enters directed many Broadway and off-Broadway productions featuring actors such as Alan Alda, Helen Hayes, Maurice Evans, Julie Harris, Farley Granger and Shelly Winters.
Enters began his long career in Buffalo in 1968, when he was appointed associate director of Studio Arena Theatre, under artistic director Neal DuBrock. During his tenure there, he directed 32 productions, ranging from acclaimed versions of Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" and "Tiny Alice" in the late '60s to a popular run of A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" in 1992.
While most closely identified with Studio Arena, Enters also had relationships with other Buffalo theater companies and universities. He directed a co-production of "Fiddler on the Roof" for Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo that starred Saul Elkin, as well as a 1984 Ujima Theatre production of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf."
"We got a lot of pushback from the Buffalo community about why Warren Enters was directing 'For Colored Girls,' " said Ujima founder and executive director Lorna C. Hill. "But Warren loved us. He brought us roses and champagne to rehearsal, and we ran 13 weeks. So I worship the ground he walked on."
But it was his work in the classroom from which Enters seemed to derive the most pleasure. He bragged about having "a whole army of ex-kids" who went on to great things, including Fontana and the screenwriter Diane English.
"What's really exciting is to feel that you made a difference in someone's life," Enters told The News in 1986. "Not only do your very successful students come back, but even those you feel you haven't affected, and then you find out you have."
"He not only encouraged me to follow my dream of being a writer, but to have the courage to write about the subjects and characters that were important to me," Fontana said. "You weren't getting one side of the coin, you were getting both sides from him."
Enters is survived by his partner, William Lennon. No services are planned.