Friends and Colleagues Remember Producer Ted Mann at Broadway Memorial

By Robert Simonson
02 May 2012

Terrence McNally
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Mann produced McNally's first Broadway play, a flop called Things That Go Bump in the Night. The reviews were awful, and McNally expected it would close after one performance. "Then I got a call from Ted. He said, 'Here's what we're going to do. We came in under-budget. I think if we charge only one dollar for weekday shows and two dollars on Friday and Sunday, we can run three weeks.' I said, 'Who will come?' He said, 'Well, it's an experiment.'" People did come. "If he hadn't done that," said McNally, "I don't think I would have written another play. I think he knew that having a play run one night for a young playwright would have been a death knell."

Klein also read letters from Al Pacino, who acted at Circle in the Square many times, and Campbell Scott, whose parents, George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, were stalwarts are Mann's theatre. "He was that man who is so rare," wrote Pacino. "He was totally devoted to theatre, and at the same time could make it happen… He just kept the ball spinning. He did something I find profound. He kept learning."

"There were certain people that my parents spoke of in a certain tone," remembered Scott. "This tone was reserved for people they truly respected. Usually they were certain producers. Robert Whitehead, certainly. Joe Papp. And Ted Mann."

Nick Wyman

Nick Wyman, president at Actors' Equity Association, joked that Mann "looked like a gangster. But he had the soul of a poet under a rough exterior. A lot of us come to New York with a love of the theatre. But we get over it! Ted didn't." At Circle, Mann produced classics by O'Neill, Miller, Williams, Shaw, Moliere, and others, giving those playwrights a living presence in the theatre. "For decades — back when Lincoln Center was still flouncing; when Manhattan Theatre Club was just a blip on the Upper East Side; when the Roundabout Theatre Company was bargaining to get into the basement of a grocery store — there was Circle in the Square, creating great theatre. For decades. Ted kept that dream alive."

Last to speak was Paul Libin, Mann's partner in running Circle in the Square for decades. "He was the last of the Mohicans," Libin said of his longtime friend and colleague.

The memorial ended with a film of Mann speaking at his induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2009, followed by a recording of Brooks singing an aria.

Read the earlier obituary of Theodore Mann