E. L. Doctorow: In Memoriam

GREAT PERFORMANCES mourns the passing of American author E. L. Doctorow, who died July 21, 2015, at the age of 84 after complications from lung cancer. As a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction, Doctorow was lauded for his singular ability to capture the rhythms of bygone eras in a way that resonated with contemporary social and political issues.

Throughout his illustrious career, Doctorow authored three volumes of short fiction, a stage drama, and a dozen novels, including Ragtime, arguably Doctorow’s most celebrated work, which was adapted as both the film, Ragtime (1981), directed by Milos Forman, and as the four-time Tony winning musical Ragtime (1988), music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Terrance McNally.

GREAT PERFORMANCES had the honor of featuring Doctorow in GREAT PERFORMANCES: Creating Ragtime (1998), a behind-the-scenes look at the process of adapting Ragtime as a Broadway musical. During the program’s conclusion, Doctorow articulates the theme that will continue to echo through his oeuvre: “And perhaps even though we’re talking about something in the past from a century’s distance, one has the right to think of an even greater period of time, in which there’s an arc of full integration among all of our different social and ethnic elements, so that we do become a cohesive society.”