BROTHER ANDREW CORSINI, 87
- This story was sent to you by: Lou Rugani
I'm sorry to have to report the death of Brother Andy Corsini, whom I knew from the 1970s.
BROTHER ANDREW CORSINI, 87
Cleric founded society to save theater history
By Barbara Sherlock
Tribune staff reporter
November 18, 2003
Brother Andrew Corsini often recalled to friends the awe he felt watching the construction in the 1930s of the Southtown Theater at 63rd Street and Wallace Avenue in Chicago.
It rekindled the joy he remembered attending the Tivoli Theater as a toddler. He watched the demolition of both theaters.
The Tivoli, at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, remained his favorite throughout his lifetime.
Brother Andrew, 87, a founding member of the Theatre Historical Society of America as well as archivist and cook for his order, Congregation of Holy Cross, died of complications from diabetes on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the order's Holy Cross House on the University of Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind.
Born John Fowler on the Chicago's South Side and graduating from Elkhart High School in Indiana, he attended classes for a year at St. Procopius College in Lisle. He returned to Elkhart to work in theaters.
He received the habit of a Holy Cross brother in 1940 and was given the religious name of Andrew Corsini. In 1946, he took final vows into the order, which founded Notre Dame.
During the 1960s, he began a series of correspondences with other theater buffs throughout the country, including the late Time/Life editor Ben Hall and Joseph DuciBella, who was then a high school student intrigued by the subject and is now the society's Chicago-area director.
"There was a round-robin of letters, and Ben Hall was the idea man to form something," said DuciBella. "Andrew took up the gauntlet in 1969 and ran with it, and through his efforts started our publication, Marquee. He made it a magazine, made it popular, made it fly."
Dedicated to preserving the memories of theater buildings throughout the country, the society is based in the York Theater in Elmhurst and includes information about more than 10,000 theaters, including thousands of slide and photographic images, and paper materials such as advertisements. It also operates a museum.
Its publication is sent quarterly to the society's 1,000 members. After founding the magazine, Brother Andrew continued as its editor for 20 years.
Early on, Brother Andrew began collecting memorabilia and records on theaters, and as other founding members died or moved on, he took over their collections. The materials for a while were stored in a rental space in Chicago before moving to Elmhurst.
"We hold the historical record for American theater," said Richard Sklenar, executive director of the society. "Theaters are restored better because we have the record of the original carpet pattern, or upholstery or marquee, and that is because of Brother Andrew. He started accumulating these archives, was the keeper of the collection and held onto it until it could be archived properly."
His position as cook for his religious order began while studying in its seminary and continued for more than 50 years at its various schools and residential houses.
"He was a wonderful cook and baker," said his longtime friend, Rev. Joseph Walter. "He also could be a temperamental cook as many a chef or cook can be." Walter remembers the time he was cooking with Brother Andrew in the kitchen as a novitiate and had to dodge a pancake tossed at his forehead for moving too slowly.
"But he would get over it in two seconds," said Walter. "He had this rough appearance of a curmudgeon, ... but he would do anything for you. He was prayerful, spiritual and very good to our community."
Brother Andrew also was a stamp collector and had a fondness for theater organs and trains.
Survivors include a niece, nephew and a grandnephew.
Services have been held.
Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune
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