The Austin Chronicle

Glynda Cox: In Memoriam

By Robert Faires, February 1, 2008, Arts

One of the greatest moms of the Austin arts scene has died. Glynda Cox, who for nine years ran the beloved Downtown performance venue Chicago House with her partner, Peg Miller, passed away in her sleep on Sunday, Jan. 20. She was 64. Tragically, her death came one day after the passing of her father, G.B. "Pete" Martin, in New Braunfels. It was at Chicago House that many a fledgling playwright, poet, singer-songwriter, storyteller, and theatre company took a leap out of the nest, and no matter how clumsy a flight it may have been, Glynda was always there with an encouraging word or a smile or a hug to make you feel better about it. You may not have been her kid, but she was so supportive and nurturing that whenever you were around her, you felt like you were. Cox had other jobs – she followed her dad into work for Southwestern Bell and broke through the gender line in a couple of male-only jobs – but it was Austin's arts scene where she made even more of an impact. She came to Austin having been a student of the great theatre educator Ruth Denney alongside Paula Prentiss and Robert Foxworth at Lamar High School in Houston. In the Seventies, she served as house manager for Center Stage, and director Jimmy Costello's stagings of musicals by Sondheim and a way-out-of-town tryout for the Stephen Schwartz-Joseph Stein musical The Baker's Wife, with the late Joe York and recent Tony Award winner Julie White, made a deep impression on her. In 1984, Cox became a partner in Chameleon's Coffee House in an old building on Trinity between Sixth and Seventh. After a few years, two of the partners decided to take the establishment to Brodie Oaks, but Cox and Miller were able to hold on to the lease and, in the summer of 1987, opened Chicago House. The venue quickly became a home for low-budget theatrical productions and open mics, and an astounding roster of artists passed through its doors by the time it closed in 1996: Alejandro Escovedo, Tish Hinojosa, Jo Carol Pierce, Jimmy LaFave, Sharon Bridgforth, Karen Kuykendall and Sterling Price-McKinney, David Rodriguez, Steven Tomlinson, Slaid Cleaves, Betty Elders, Will T. Massey, C.K. McFarland, Marco Perella, Heloise Gold ... the list goes on. In 1991, Miller and Cox were jointly named Woman of the Year by Music City Texas, and in 1994, they received the Austin Circle of Theaters' Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions to Austin Theatre. Cox is survived by her son, Jim L.H. Cox, and his wife, Lena; daughter Cassandra Sparkman, husband Mark, and grandsons Nicholas and Alexander; brother Gordon Martin and wife Nancy; sister Micaela Zoeller and husband Danny; granddaughter Amber Dupont and great-grandson Elijah; her partner, Peg Miller; and friends too numerous to count. A celebration of Cox's life, hosted by Betty Elders and Will T. Massey, will be held Sunday, Feb. 10, 4-8pm, at Jovita's, 1619 S. First. All are welcome.

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