Harvey Pekar and Bob Swain
"Page Two: Work and Splendor" by Louis Black
"Stairway to Cleveland" by Raoul Hernandez
"Off the Record" by Austin Powell
An influential theatremaker is gone. J. Robert Swain, known to friends as Bob, died July 7, one day shy of his 82nd birthday. The native of Detroit arrived in Austin in the Seventies, following stints in Martin, Tenn., where he launched the Vanguard Theatre at the University of Tennessee at Martin, and San Antonio, where he taught theatre at Trinity University and co-founded the First Repertory Company, where he worked with Jaston Williams and Joe Sears early in their careers. Moving up I-35, he served as a professor of drama and theatre arts at Austin Community College and artistic director for the Zachary Scott Theatre Center, where he gave work in the costume shop to a young Stephen MacMillan Moser. (For the Style Avatar's remembrance of Swain, see "After a Fashion.") Actor and designer Michael Sullivan, who first worked with Swain (and Williams) on a production of Marat/Sade at Zach, recalls: "Bob was a Marine and often took the directorial approach of a drill instructor, especially when it came to actors learning their lines. Woe to the actor who showed up with a script on the day that Bob declared that a cast was to be 'off-book.' But Bob, with his ready smile and good humor, was ultimately a benevolent dictator as a director, and every member of a cast, from the most to the least experienced, always learned and benefited from Bob's insights." Swain is survived by his wife, Polly; son Robb and daughter-in-law Lorrie; grandsons Colby, Brandon, and Dillon; and the mother of his children, Doris Jane Swain of San Antonio.