Rebecca Basham passed away July 22, 2015, at home. A playwright and Associate professor of the Department of English, she was 48. A reviewer described one of her plays as “brash, bracing, wildly funny, and covertly serious.” The same could be said of Rebecca herself. She will be sorely missed.
Rebecca received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans in 2001. Her plays — Lot’s Daughters, Arbeit Macht Frei, Louisiana LIKK-HR and Wrinkles — were produced around the country, including at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Diversionary Theater in San Diego. They were also published by Samuel French.
She was the recipient of many awards, including the Michael Kanin National Playwriting Award, William Morris Award, Jane Chambers National Playwriting Award, the Sundance Award and two San Diego Critics Circle Awards. Reviewers called her “a very gifted playwright,” one “with a great deal to say, and a keen sense of how to frame a tale.” Her drama was described as “vivid, funny, provocative, and deeply moving,” a “blend of emotional intensity and warm humor,” and “full of clever, apt lines.” Rebecca was typically generous in return, donating the proceeds of her productions to gay and lesbian organizations.
Rebecca came to Rider in 2002 where she taught playwriting, screenwriting and literature courses, as well as contributed to the Gender and Sexuality Studies, American Studies, and Film and Media Studies programs. She directed the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program from 2004 to 2007, and she received the Sadie L. Ziegler-Bernice Gee Award in 2010, an award presented to the person who has most significantly contributed to ending gender-based discrimination. Matthew Goldie in the Department of English says that as a colleague, “she was our truth-teller, always saying the exact right thing at the right time, insightful about people, and funnier than all get out just when you needed it.”
Her plays were also produced and read on campus. Students appreciated working with a nationally acclaimed artist, and her classrooms will be remembered for her keen insights and inspired teaching. She was also exceptionally kind and generous in her mentorship of junior faculty, sharing intuitions with trenchant wit and encouragement with brisk good humor. Her colleague Dr. Vanita Neelakanta says she “adored her. She was mentor, friend and partner in crime, and coming in to work was that much more meaningful and fun if she was there.” Another colleague and friend, Dr. Jack Sullivan, describes her as “a courageous, generous, and scathingly funny human being. She gave us a much-needed dash of New Orleans spice. The last time I saw her was in an oyster bar on Bourbon Street, where she seemed happy and in her element, a good way to remember her.”
Rebecca is survived by her mother, Regina Puryear, sisters Laura and Ginny, and her partner, Dr. Terry Pertuit, who teaches in Graduate Education at Rider University.