Susan Raab Simonson, an associate producer for L.A. Theatre Works, a company nationally known for live productions recorded for later broadcast over satellite and public radio, died Monday after a months-long battle with breast cancer. She was 37.
Simonson joined the Los Angeles-based company in 1999, helping mount classical and contemporary works for LATW's "The Play's the Thing" live radio theater series and its productions created in association with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Simonson teamed with LATW producing director Susan Loewenberg in choosing and casting more than 80 plays, including Budd Schulberg's "On the Waterfront," Arthur Miller's "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan," John Pielmeier's "Agnes of God" and David Auburn's "Proof," attracting a talent pool that frequently featured such well-known actors as Elaine Stritch, Anne Heche, Robert Foxworth, Eric Stoltz, JoBeth Williams and Hilary Swank.
Simonson was notable for her astute mind, her ability to select material and bring together talent, and for her "zeal for life," said playwright and actor Annabelle Gurwitch ("Fired," TBS' "Dinner & a Movie"). "She helped make L.A. Theatre Works one of the most vibrant theater communities in Los Angeles."
"She was whip-smart with a wonderfully dry sense of humor," Stoltz said, "and she was absolutely beautiful. I think just about everyone she encountered had a little crush on her, which she knew and deflected with grace."
Susan Raab, born May 1, 1969, in Greenbrae, Calif., began producing plays in San Francisco after attending American Conservatory Theatre there. Before joining LATW, she wore several hats at Tim Robbins' L.A.-based Actors' Gang theater company.
She married theater and film director Eric Simonson in 2004.
In March, while on extended maternity leave from LATW, Raab Simonson was diagnosed with breast cancer, Loewenberg said, the day after her husband received an Academy Award for his short-subject documentary, "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin."
"We worked together for seven years," Loewenberg said. "It was a wonderful collaboration. I could always count on Susie to carry out whatever we decided to do with impeccable professionalism and an eye toward excellence. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was just a wonderful life force."
L.A. Theatre Works is dedicating its December production, "Mary Stuart," to Simonson's memory.
Susan Raab Simonson is survived by her husband and the couple's infant son, Henry; parents Joan and Robert Raab; brothers Steve and Michael; sister-in-law Julie; nieces Ella and Soskia; and nephew Nicholas.
A memorial will be held Dec. 9 at St. Anselm Church in Ross, Calif. Plans for a memorial in Los Angeles are pending.