Monday, January 26, 2015

SCHULMAN AND HAMMERSTEIN: A GREAT "DOUBLE-HEADER" AT LINCOLN CENTER

Susan L. Schulman
After vowing to get myself to Lincoln Center more often this year, I traveled up there a few weeks ago for a great double-header.

First, I went to the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts to listen to Susan L. Schulman tell stories that formed the basis of her book Backstage Pass to Broadway: True Tales from a Theatre Press Agent.

When that event ended, I ran down the street to hear Oscar Hammerstein's grandson, Andy, present the history of his grandfather's music.

Ms. Schulman, a long-time press agent, started out by telling about her life growing up in New York.  She took dance lessons, went ice skating, and frequented both the library and the 92nd Street Y.  A self-described "theatre kid," Ms. Schulman would wait outside the stage door at the end of productions - not to get autographs, but to let actors know how much she enjoyed their performances.

In 1978, Susan opened up Schulman Publicity in the Paramount building. Over the span of her career, Susan  has worked with theatre figures such as Lauren Bacall, Zero Mostel, Mary Martin, George C. Scott, and Yul Brynner. She explained that it's the job of a press agent to "create the right expectations for critics and audiences."

Ms. Schulman recalled with fondness her encounters with famed choreographer Bob Fosse. She described him as someone who valued critics' feedback, "knew everything about everything," and was "the master of every single theatrical discipline."

At the end of her talk, Susan took questions from the audience.  A few folks wanted to know the impact of social media on how she approached her job.  I asked her for her thoughts on how to develop young audiences for theater.  She mentioned the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein's work as a co-foundre of Open Doors Broadway Mentors Program. 

After Ms. Schulman signed a copy of her book for me,  I ran down the street to the David Rubenstein Atrium to see Something Wonderful: The Songs of Rodgers and HammersteinAndy Hammerstein talked and showed slides about the history of his grandfather Oscar's work.  His anecdotes were brought to life by three talented singers.

Andy described Oscar as a "lefty with a lower case 'l'" who, like many [Jewish] artists of his times, was brought under the magnifying glass of McCarthyism and made the subject of an enormous FBI file.

One of the highlights of the event was joining the rest of the audience to sing "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.  Truthfully, there were so many wonderful songs, I wish the entire evening had been a sing-a-long!

For more information about events at the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts, click HERE.
Fore more information about events at The David Rubenstein Atrium, click HERE.
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