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American Theater Company's PJ Paparelli killed in car accident

PJ Paparelli

PJ Paparelli, the artistic director of Chicago's American Theater Company, died this morning from injuries sustained in a car accident this week in Scotland, where he was on vacation, a spokesperson for the theater says. ATC issued the following brief statement:

"American Theater Company mourns the loss of its leader and artistic director PJ Paparelli, 40, who passed away this morning from injuries due to a car accident in Scotland. The Theater sends its deepest condolences to his family, and requests all respect their privacy at this difficult time. Details on a Chicago memorial service are forthcoming."

Paparelli could be a divisive figure in Chicago—the bulk of ATC's former ensemble defected not long after his 2007 arrival, citing artistic differences, to reform as American Blues Theater, and ATC has sometimes struggled financially during his tenure. But the work onstage has been ambitious and largely strong, and Paparelli's commitment to diversifying the ensemble he rebuilt and the voices his company represented was passionate; the current show at ATC, the moving, documentary-style The Project(s), was spearheaded, co-written and directed by Paparelli.

Paparelli is the latest in a string of untimely deaths besetting the Chicago theater community this year, including the passings earlier this month of longtime Chicago Dramatists head Russ Tutterow and actress Erin Myers, both after battles with cancer.