Prolific Broadway producer and director Harold Prince passed away July 31 at the age of 91, leaving behind a theatrical legacy that includes such beloved productions as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Company, Evita, Sweeney Todd, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Prince was an incomparable artist, receiving a record 21 Tony Awards over his 70-year career, but many of the remembrances being shared by the Broadway community also paint a picture of a man who was incredibly warm and supportive to his colleagues and the institutions that support the industry.
One such institution is The Actors Fund, a nonprofit that works to support entertainment professionals through a variety of programs including health clinics, social services, and a retirement home. Though Prince offered leadership and counsel to the organization over his more than 50 years on its board, it was one particular move that has had the most enduring legacy for the organization, made when Prince was enjoying his greatest professional success.
In 1988, The Actors Fund was in danger of being forced to close its doors. Prince had just brought his hit production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera from London to Broadway, where it immediately became the hottest ticket in New York.
"To kick-start the rebuilding of The Fund, Hal assigned his coveted house seats for The Phantom of the Opera to The Fund," Fund President and CEO Joseph P. Benincasa told Playbill. "Hal’s four seats inspired other Broadway shows to do the same, creating a unique membership program and a key source of financial support for our human services programs. Hal’s vision and generosity played a significant role in making sure The Actors Fund would not only survive, but prosper."
Prince's contagious generosity has allowed The Fund to continue offering programs that support artists working in one of the world's most unstable industries, ultimately ensuring the resiliency of both the individual artists and their art forms as well.
For Benincasa, Prince's legacy will forever be part of the history of live theatre. "Hal’s deep love and respect for everyone on stage, front and back of house, will always be an inspiration."