Born in Bristol, Rhode Island, Norman René dropped his psychology studies at Johns Hopkins University in order to pursue acting at Carnegie Mellon University. Over the course of his studies, he realized he was better suited for directing, using his summer breaks to run the repertory Red Barn Theater in Pittsburgh. He moved to New York City in 1974, and founded the Off-off Broadway Production Company three years later. He directed a number of plays written by Craig Lucas including Reckless and A Prelude to a Kiss, which each earned René a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Director. In 1990 he made a transition to feature film with his episode “Blue Window” for the program, American Playhouse. Only two years later he directed Longtime Companion, written by Lucas, which was one of the first films to focus on the AIDS epidemic. He received praise and the Audience Choice Award at Sundance Film Festival for the film, which gave him the boost he needed to create the film adaptation of A Prelude to a Kiss. The film was preceded by a Broadway theatrical production, for which René received an Obie for Best Director. His final film, Reckless, premiered in 1995, just a year before his death in 1996. He died at age 45 due to complications with AIDS.

photo courtesy of Craig Lucas
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