Shirle Gottlieb, a longtime theater and arts critic who helped develop the Long Beach arts scene, died Sunday. She was 87.
Gottlieb died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said her daughter, Amy.
caryn desai, artistic director/producer at International City Theatre, called Gottlieb “one of the biggest supporters of the arts in our community, an intelligent, caring reviewer, an educator and a positive force for good.”
Joanne Gordon, former chair of the Theatre Arts Department at Cal State Long Beach and artistic director of California Repertory Company, said Gottlieb’s hundreds of reviews were “always kind but honest. She adored Long Beach and did all in her power to foster and develop the local arts scene. She enriched all who knew her.”
Harry Saltzgaver, executive editor of the Grunion Gazette, where Gottlieb was a theater writer from 2008 to 2016, called her “a stalwart in the Long Beach arts scene for literally decades.”
Amy Gottlieb said her mother saw her job as giving readers a deeper understanding of whatever it was they were seeing. “She wanted to put the arts into a context so each viewer could widen their knowledge and enrich his or her own personal experience with the play or painting,” she said.
Gottlieb was born in Springfield, Ill., but grew up in Hannibal, Mo. In a personal memoir she wrote years ago, she said that Hannibal was an idyllic place to grow up but, aside from Mark Twain’s historic home, there were no museums or galleries.
“Perhaps because of my environment, I never thought about ‘art’ per se, even though I had been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon,” she wrote.
Her family moved to Long Beach, and Gottlieb became an art major at Wilson High School and a painting major at UCLA. After she and her husband Art, an attorney, raised four children, she went back to school at Cal State Long Beach.
It was when she began work on her master’s degree that she dropped the ‘y” from her name and became simply Shirle (pronounced Shirl). She was named after movie star Shirley Temple.
In the mid-1980s she began writing theater and art reviews in the Press-Telegram. She also has written for other publications, including ArtScene, Drama-Logue, Jewish Community Chronicle and Visual Art Source.
She moved to Gazette Newspapers in 2008 and started her theater column, “On With The Show.” She stepped down from that job in 2016. She also taught a class at the CSULB Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
She has been honored as a Distinguished Alumna by CSULB and has been given a “Distinguished Critics Award” by the city. She was a longtime member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, the American Theater Critics Association and the International Association of Art Critics.
Joanne Gordon said it was impossible to sum up Gottlieb’s career easily.
“How does one sum up decades of devotion?” she said. “Shirle, and her beloved husband Art, were the epitome of the true Renaissance devotees. They loved attending the theater. They celebrated each success and innovation. She cannot be replaced.”
In the article she wrote about herself, Gottlieb described her career in this passage from Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Sunday in the Park with George:” “Art isn’t easy, bit by bit, dot by dot, day by day, putting it together” is a lifelong process that changes, just as life does, as time goes by.
Survivors include her husband, Art; children, Amy, Stacey, Randi and Darius; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild on the way.
A memorial service is being planned.