The Stopwatch Has Stopped: Veteran Philly Stage Manager Exits Walnut Street After 23 Years

News   The Stopwatch Has Stopped: Veteran Philly Stage Manager Exits Walnut Street After 23 Years Frank Anzalone, Walnut Street Theatre's production stage manager for the past 23 years, is hanging up his stopwatch to pursue free-lance directing and teaching.

He retires from the Walnut in Philadelphia July 2 after stage-managing 115 shows there, including the latest, Godspell.

Anzalone joined Actors' Equity Association in 1982, when he served as production stage manager for the comedy whodunit Shear Madness at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. It was during this time that he met Bernard Havard, the Walnut producing artistic director.

"Bernard Havard and I remain the two who have held our positions for exactly 23 years since the conception of The Walnut Street Theatre Company," Anzalone told Playbill.com. "Twenty-three years has been a long run. The favorite part of my journey for me was the first 11 years: an adventurous roller-coaster ride that I share with Bernard and will cherish forever. And what a ride those formative years were!"

Anzalone said he has been using the same stopwatch for 23 years, and it broke during preview week for the current run of Godspell. "It was some kind of sign: I knew it was time to move on," Anzalone said.

On June 28, prior to Anzalone's July 2 departure, Havard will host a farewell party with staff, friends, colleagues and artists with whom Anzalone has worked. Anzalone said, "I am moving on to do three things I have long wanted to do: To direct musicals full time, to direct college students, and to teach on the college level. God has delivered up all three to me in record-breaking time — thus making this shift in gears much easier for me."

Anzalone's next project will be directing Roger Miller's musical Big River at Gretna Theatre in July. In 2007 he will stage How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the spring musical for The College of New Jersey Musical Theatre, as well as the Melissa Manchester musical I Sent a Letter to My Love at the Act Two Playhouse in Ambler.

Anzalone was recently appointed adjunct assistant professor at University of the Arts where he will teach advanced stage management this fall.

At the Walnut, Anzalone directed on the Mainstage three times, including an acclaimed production of 1776, which earned 1997 Barrymore nominations for Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical. It won two awards including Best Actor (James Brennan) and Best Supporting Actor (the late Charles Antalosky). In 1998, Anzalone directed Cole Porter's Anything Goes, which was a co-production with Maine State Music Theatre. In 2004, he staged Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!

In the Walnut Studio, Anzalone directed Vanities in 1995; The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, nominated for the 1996 Barrymore for Best Play and winner of Best Actress (Kathleen Doyle); Visiting Mr. Green in 2000; and I Do! I Do! in 2001.

Anzalone graduated Phi Beta Kappa from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He holds a master's degree in directing from Catholic University, where Susan Sarandon was a classmate. In 2003, the Philadelphia chapter of the Stage Managers Association honored him for Lifetime Achievement in Stage Management.

"What most people don't realize about Frank Anzalone is that besides being perhaps the best stage manager in our industry, Frank is a gifted and talented director," said Richard Parison, a former WST staffer who is now associate artistic director of Philly's Prince Music Theater. "I first met him when I joined the staff of the Walnut Street Theatre back in 1998, when I was the casting director and assistant to the producing artistic director. Our first project together was Anything Goes, which Frank was directing. As I look back now, some of my fondest memories are of sitting in those many auditions together — working, laughing, listening to stories, joking and smiling. By the end of that show, Frank and I had gone from being respected colleagues and co-workers to dear friends. To this day, I treasure my friendship with Frank Anzalone. He is a one-of-a-kind stage manager, director and friend."

For more information about Walnut Street Theatre, visit www.wstonline.org.

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