Playwright JOE PINTAURO was born on this date (d: May 2018); Mr. Pintauro grew up in Queens, where he attended John Adams High School, and in East Northport, on Long Island. At Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, he studied business and marketing but also nurtured an interest in writing, contributing articles to the college’s newspaper and poetry to its quarterly journal.
The college, a Roman Catholic institution, was his first exposure to Catholic schooling, and he arrived there at a particularly emotional point. His mother was dying from cancer and by the time he graduated in 1953 he had decided to become a priest. He was ordained in Brooklyn in 1958.
He was assigned to parishes in the Flatbush and then Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn at a time when unemployment, gangs and drugs, not gentrification, were the issues of the day.
On his days off from his priestly duties he pursued his writing interests, joining in the Circle in the Square Theater drama workshop in Greenwich Village and workshops on poetry and cinema at Columbia University; at the same time, he was also studying for a master’s in American literature at Fordham University.
By the mid-1960s Mr. Pintauro grew restless in the priesthood and asked his bishop for permission to seek a job in the secular world. The request was granted in 1966 — the Official Catholic Directory changed his listing to “absent on leave” — and he landed a job at the advertising agency Ted Bates.
He worked on campaigns for Trans World Airlines and Kool cigarettes. A 1967 feature article about him in The Times ran under the headline “Parish Priest to Copy Writer.” He later moved to Young and Rubicam. He also became a published poet; his 1968 volume, “To Believe in God,” illustrated by Sister Mary Corita Kent, sold particularly well and brought him a burst of renown that included television appearances.
His novel “Cold Hands” was published in 1979. In 1982 Circle Rep staged his play “Snow Orchid“, about a family in turmoil, with a cast that included Peter Boyle and Olympia Dukakis. The company opened its fall season in 1989 with his drama “Beside Herself” with William Hurt, Lois Smith and Calista Flockhart in the cast.
“The Dead Boy” (1990) was about a church sex scandal and has had readings or productions all over the United States and abroad. Mr. Pintauro addressed the grim reality of AIDS in “Raft of the Medusa” (1991), whose title invoked the Théodore Géricault painting of the aftermath of a shipwreck, a raft full of the dead and the living.
Pintauro died on May 29, 2018, at his home in Sag Harbor, N.Y. He was 87. His husband, Greg Therriault, said the cause was prostate cancer.