By Rohan Preston

Director and teacher Israel Hicks, who in 1970 became the first Arican-American to stage a show at the Guthrie Theater, died Sunday in New York, according to press reports.

He was 66 and had been suffering from prostate cancer.

Hicks, who was mentored by directing great Lloyd Richards, staged Lonnie Elder's "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" at the Guthrie in 1970. That production launched his career on the regional theater circuit, including Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Denver Theatre Center, where he was an associate artist for two decades.

He directed all 10 plays in August Wilson's epic cycle in Denver and was slated to stage "A Raisin in the Sun" at Juilliard in October.

“Whenever I couldn’t do a job, I would always say the best person I know is Israel Hicks,” said Penumbra Theatre founder Lou Bellamy. “He was a monster and his work was better than mine. I say that as someone who often directed the same repertoire.”

The two worked together at the Kennedy Center as members of a team that staged readings of all 10 plays in August Wilson’s epic cycle.

Bellamy said that Hicks was “fearless — he would go places I wouldn’t. His work was sound and deep, not flashy at all but developed over a long arc.”

Hicks also taught at Carnegie-Mellon University, the State University of New York and at Rutgers, where he headed the school's theater program.