Broadway stage manager Franklin Keysar, considered one of the great unseen forces in several major New York productions of the past 30 years, died Jan. 25, 1999 at Lenox Hill Hospital after a long battle with liver cancer. He was 60.
Mr. Keysar, a Warren, NH, native who graduated from Boston University's School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1961, stage-managed the Tony Award winning Broadway production of Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo, his 24th Broadway show as production stage manager.
He was also stage manager for Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy in New York and later directed the Chicago production at the Briar Street Theatre, as well as the Toronto staging.
Uhry, in a statement, said, "Franklin Keysar had more integrity than any man I ever knew, and that made him one of the best production stage managers imaginable."
Other recent Broadway credits for Mr. Keysar include On the Waterfront (1995) and Buried Child and God Said Ha! (both in 1996), and he also frequently worked on Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera. Mr. Keysar died three days after his Jan. 22 60th birthday. His first major job out of college was working with American Ballet Theatre, later touring with Rudolph Nureyev. Other credits include Manhattan Theatre Club (Putting It Together with Julie Andrews), Lincoln Center Theater (Woody Allen's The Floating Lightbulb), Trinity Repertory Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival and The Long Wharf Theatre, where he stage-managed the transfer of The Shadow Box to Broadway.
Actress Margaret Whitton said, "Franklin was every bit as much of an artist as those on stage. He could breathe with each performance."
Ballyhoo and Buried Child producer Jane Harmon told Playbill On-Line Jan. 26 she simply trusted his experience: "I think I always felt he could handle any type of project. He's worked on musicals, he's worked on dance, he did 'umpteen' straight plays." She said when she knew she had a project, she wanted him: "I just always thought, if Franklin's available he's going to be stage manager."
She added, "Actors trusted him beyond belief. He completely understood actors, and he understood the writers and the material. He really had a director's soul. There hasn't been an actor I've called and talked to who hasn't been devastated by this."
Friend and colleague Peggy Peterson, production stage manger of Cats, told Playbill On-Line Jan. 26 she worked as Mr. Keysar's assistant at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and his influence was indelible: "He was a tremendous teacher to a lot of young stage mangers, myself included. My entire being as a stage manager was based on what I learned from him -- I wish I was as good as he was."
Peterson called him "an incredibly modest man who didn't seek accolades, and yet every time a show that he worked on was nominated, he was always mentioned by somebody who won. The minute somebody worked with him they wanted to work with him again."
He is survived by his mother, Bertha, of Warren, NH; three sisters, Phylis Colby-Mudgett of Bristol, NH; Virginia Keysar of Piermont, NH; Patti Bartlett, of Bristol, NH; three brothers, Philip Keysar of Yarmouth Port, MA; Donald Keysar of Warren, NH; Gary Keysar of Elizabethton, TN; 11 nieces and nephews and seven great nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held 1 PM Jan. 31 at the Park Avenue United Methodist Church, (106 East 86th Street), where Mr. Keysar was a member for 35 years. In lieu of flowers the family suggests that donation can be made to Broadway Cares/ EFA or The Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
-- By Kenneth Jones