George Cuyler


1:00 pm
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Trinity Church
33 Mercer Street
Princeton, New Jersey, United States

Obituary of George Grenville Cuyler

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George Grenville Cuyler, fondly known as “Gren” or “Grenny,” passed away on Saturday evening, February 1, 2020, at his home at Meadow Lakes, Hightstown, New Jersey, from complications related to advanced dementia. An actor, director, set and lighting designer, model, teacher, museum curator, scholar, genealogist, and poet, he was a true artist who expressed his innate creativity in a myriad of marvelous ways. Born on April 12, 1938 in Princeton, New Jersey, he was raised with his four siblings and four Matthews cousins in “The Barracks” at 32 Edgehill Street. Gren often talked about the Hessian soldier who allegedly haunted the house. He also liked to reminisce about the interesting guests that his uncle, T.S. Matthews, Editor-in-Chief of Time magazine (1949-1953), introduced to the household. Gren once remarked that The Barracks was like a theater in which all kinds of people—big and small, old and young—performed skits, sang, recited poetry, and told stories around the dining-room table. In addition, his parents invited friends and various relatives to live at their home when they were in need of a temporary refuge, so life was never dull. All of this activity no doubt contributed to Gren’s pursuit of a career in the theater. He attended Princeton Country Day School in the early 1950s, long before it merged with Miss Fine’s School to become Princeton Day School. He next entered Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts, and was graduated in 1956, after which he matriculated at Princeton University, where he was graduated in 1960 with an A.B. in English. During his four years at the university, he worked extensively with both the Theatre Intime and the Triangle Club. After college, Gren entered the United States National Guard, Army division, and was honorably discharged in 1962. Returning to his academic aspirations, he went on to receive an M.F.A. degree in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D from The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England. He also studied at the Lloyd Richards Studio in New York. His academic journey was intermittently interrupted by professional work that would take pages to enumerate. Some of the high points included acting in various roles at the Dallas Theater Center, the Sharon Playhouse, McCarter Theater, the Williamstown Summer Theatre, and The New York Shakespeare Festival. Gren’s mentor, Paul Baker, Founder of the Dallas Theater Center, described him as “a most unusual and brilliant young man, very individual, with great potential.” One of his signature roles was that of F.D.R. in the musical Annie, staged at the Chiswick Park Theatre outside Boston. Gren directed Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot for his masters project at Sarah Lawrence College, using the whole of the interior of Trinity Church for the production, and casting Ernest Gordon, Dean of Princeton University Chapel, in the leading role of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Gren also acted in a number of films, such as Mona Lisa Smile, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Housesitter, and The Witches of Eastwick. In addition, he appeared in several television productions, including playing the role of The Blacksmith in The Scarlet Letter. His teaching career began when he served as Graduate Assistant in Theatre at Bucknell University. Later, Gren taught English and directed plays at the University School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Concord Academy, Concord, Massachusetts in its newly constructed Performing Arts Center. His drama students flourished under his superb direction, and their parents praised his uncanny ability to inspire their children to bring characters to life onstage. Gren also served as Assistant Curator, Theatre and Museum Collection, Museum of the City of New York (1974-75). He was recognized for discovering an original manuscript of an early Eugene O’Neill play that became the centerpiece of an exhibit, “Eugene O’Neill--America’s Playwright” at the museum in May, 1974. Besides all of the above, Gren was an enthusiastic athlete. He was co-captain of the Groton football team and played freshman hockey at Princeton University’s Baker Rink, named for his cousin Hobey Baker. At 6’6” tall, he was a competitive tennis player and a formidable opponent at the net. Up to six months before his death, Gren could be seen jogging on the paths at Meadow Lakes. His family is going to miss his humor, comedic pantomimes, intellectual curiosity, creativity, expressiveness, love of beauty, devotion to family… and poetry. It is fitting to include one of his poems here, since his eighty-second birthday would have fallen on Easter, April 12, 2020. Resurrection The ivy plant descends, winter upon us. Despite all, it climbs— dead leaves in descent, green leaves in ascent – per ardua ad alta.” Gren is preceded in death by his two brothers, Lewis Carter Cuyler and David LeRoy Cuyler, as well as by three first cousins who were like brothers: Thomas Stanley Matthews Jr., John Potter Cuyler Matthews Jr., and Paul Clement Matthews II. He is survived by his two sisters, Juliana McIntyre Fenn and Margery Cuyler Perkins, respectively of Princeton and Lawrenceville, two nieces, four nephews, six great-nieces, three great-nephews, one great-great nephew, and many cousins. The family would like to thank the medical and social-work staff at Meadow Lakes for their consistent and loving attention as well as Vitas Healthcare, which provided beautiful and spiritual hospice care toward the end of Gren’s life. The funeral and burial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton, on April 11, 2020. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Springpoint Senior Living Foundation, Meadow Lakes, 300 Etra Road, East Windsor, New Jersey 08520 or to Friends of Theatre Intime, 5557 First Center, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540.
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