Robert Károly Sarlós, 1931-2008
Robert Károly Sarlós was born into an assimilated Jewish family (a shirt tailor/ haberdasher and a saleslady/housewife) June 6, 1931, in Budapest, Hungary, and attended the city’s renowned Lutheran High School (EvangÈlikus Gimn·zium). Admitted in 1949 to a select class in stage direction at the Hungarian Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, he was after one semester expelled for “bourgeois” descent AND thinking. He became a lathe-operator, served in the Hungarian (“Peoples”) Army, studied theatre history, had a small part in the 1956 revolution and then left his native land.
After three months in Austria, Sarlós was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee, worked as a lathe-operator in Long Beach, then attended Occidental College in Los Angeles on a scholarship (B.A. í59). A Woodrow Wilson Fellowship enabled him to study theatre history with A.M. Nagler at Yale (Ph.D. í65). In 1962 he married Charlotte Harris in April and became a citizen in November. Charlotte and he had two children: Lilian Margit, born in 1962, and Tibor Thomas in 1965; they were divorced in 1986.
Sarlós taught theatre history at UC Davis from 1963 until his retirement in January 1993. He has contributed to 15 books in America and Europe, published over 40 articles and reviews in scholarly journals (Theatre Research International, Maske und Kothurn, Theatre Survey, The Drama Review, etc.), dealing with various periods of European and American theatre and drama. His book Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: Theatre In Ferment (University of Massachusetts Press, 1982) was honored with the American Theatre Association’s Barnard Hewitt Award for “distinguished achievement in theatre history” in 1983.
At the Department of Dramatic Art in Davis, Professor Sarlós took a leading role in creating the doctoral program, of which he served as director for over 20 years. He was chiefly responsible for the development of Shields Library’s performing arts holdings and for the assembly of a significant body of source materials in Special Collections. He directed seven productions, including the English language premiere of The Tót Family by Hungarian playwright Istvan Orkeny (1968) and a performance reconstruction of the Stuart masque The Triumph of Peace (1974). Sarlós organized, or contributed to, several exhibitions (one at the San Francisco Palace of the Legion of Honor); he was instrumental in saving the Woodland Opera House and in its eventual restoration. He participated in the creation of the university’s intercampus M.A. in Dance History and in 1990-1992 served as director at the Budapest Study Center of the University’s Education Abroad Program.
Since retirement, first living in Vienna, Austria, Sarlós devoted himself to a wide range of pleasures (of palate and pallet; of travel; of concerts, theatres, opera, and exhibitions; of books in three languages), while ñ very occasionally ñ still publishing. He proudly maintained a childlike curiosity and playfulness to the end, keeping contact in person and in correspondence with kindred spirits on a broad scale of all ages, from 5 to 95. In November 2002 he moved to Portland, OR.