Alan Brandt, an art dealer and publicist whose later years were punctuated with playwriting and acting, including penning Off-Broadway's 2 1/2 Jews, died Sept. 6 of cancer, according to friends and colleagues at Do Gooder Productions.
Mr. Brandt was 78 and had written 2 1/2 Jews, his first play, at the age of 75. The work was a seriocomic look at three generations of men in a family, and how they learn to accept each other in spite of their shortcomings.
Do Gooder Productions produced the work Off-Broadway for almost a year late 1998 to late 1999 at the Greenwald Theatre. The popular and critically-acclaimed New York run was followed by several regional theatre stagings and the play is expected to have a number of North American mountings in the coming year. The script was published by Broadway Play Publishing. A film version not penned by Mr. Brandt is in the works.
"Perhaps it took a fresh young voice with the experience of 75 years under his belt to so compassionately and realistically tackle the inherent competition among males while still infusing his play with remarkable humor," said Mark Robert Gordon, founding artistic director of Do Gooder Productions. "The success of 2 1/2 Jews can be attributed to Alan's wit and balanced perspective on life — enhanced by his multi-faceted life and careers."
At the time of his death, Mr. Brandt was working on two plays that he had not yet completed, Gordon told Playbill On-Line. Mr. Brandt was also a lyricist who wrote the words for songs recorded by such singers as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Tony Bennett. In the year 2000, the licensing company Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), honored his lyrics for the hit standard song, "That’s All," as having been featured more than two million times on radio, television and in motion pictures.
Away from showbiz, Mr. Brandt was, for many years, a dealer in tribal art and a major source of African and Oceanic sculptures contained in the museum collections at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Detroit and Minneapolis Institutes of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, among others. In 1960, he opened a public gallery on Madison Avenue named Galerie Kamer, designed by Frederick Kelsler and devoted to the exhibition of African art.
Before becoming an art dealer, Mr. Brandt had his own public relations company in which he handled the careers of Harry Belafonte, Mike Wallace, and the television programs "Howdy Doody" and "Captain Kangaroo."
According to friends, Mr. Brandt came to playwriting as a septuagenarian in an effort to find age-appropriate material for his use in classes at HB Studios in New York City, where he began a late-blooming acting career in his late sixties. A member of Actors' Equity Association and the Screen Actors' Guild, he appeared Off-Broadway in Ira Levin's Cantorial at the Lamb's Theatre and in Greenfield and works by Clifford Odets at the Jewish Repertory Theater.
Mr. Brandt was born Brooklyn and attended the University of Michigan before serving in Europe as a German language translator for the Army Signal Intelligence Unit, during World War II. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Priscilla, his daughter Mia (and husband Andre), son Damon (and wife Nancy), and five grandchildren.
Funeral services were privately held, with the date and location of a memorial meeting to be announced. Do Gooder Productions, an Off-Broadway company dedicated to new play development and which partners with charities on its productions, has established the Alan Brandt Memorial Play Fund. The fund will promote the development and production of new plays by new playwrights for the professional stage and continue to promote further productions of 2 1/2 Jews. Donations to the Fund in honor of Mr. Brandt may be sent to the not-for-profit troupe, Do Gooder Productions, at 359 West 54th Street, Suite 4FS, New York, NY 10019.
— By Kenneth Jones