Remembering Gerald Schoenfeld, a "Gentleman of the Theatre"

Special Features   Remembering Gerald Schoenfeld, a "Gentleman of the Theatre"
Members of the Broadway theatre community share their thoughts, condolences and memories about the life and career of Gerald Schoenfeld, Chairman of The Shubert Organization, who died Nov. 25.

DARYL ROTH, producer and theatre owner
"He was just such the gentleman of the theatre. When I was starting out [as a producer] 20 years ago, he was a person I had known through friends. When I began producing, he was always very gracious and encouraging to me. He was always anxious to hear what everyone was doing, he was excited to know. For people just starting out, he was very excited to know what plays were interesting to you. You always like someone to feel like they're rooting for you. And he was very caring about the people who worked in the shows in his theatres, very caring about the artists. That's the most important thing, making people who work for you feel cared for."

PHILIP S. BIRSH, president and publisher, Playbill
"It is with great sadness that we learn today of the death of Gerald Schoenfeld. All of Gerald Schoenfeld's friends and colleagues at Playbill mourn his passing. He was a great friend of Playbill and the Birsh family for over 40 years. We will miss him greatly. We send our condolences to his widow Pat and his entire family. His immense impact on the theatre and the theatre community will be felt for decades."

Hugh Jackman and Gerald Schoenfeld
photo by Aubrey Reuben

"Jerry was one of the true greats — a class act through and through. I am heartbroken to hear of his passing and know Broadway's lights will never shine quite as bright with him gone. This is a great loss to the theatre community and beyond. His brilliance, kindness, and creativity will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones." MICHAEL P. PRICE, executive director, Goodspeed Musicals
"I've known him for 40 years. He was a mentor, a friend, and he didn't hesitate to tell me what he thought — and how to guide my life. I was very fortunate to have him as a friend. I met him and [late Shubert partner Bernard B. Jacobs] at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center. He was a father figure to me…and they were teachers, Bernie and Jerry together. He loved the theatre, it was in his blood, he pulsed with it. [After the Broadway run of the musical Amour], Jerry kept pushing me to do it at Goodspeed. I've never produced a play that someone else told me, 'you've gotta do it.' Jerry called and said, 'I love Amour.' It turned out to be one of the most beautiful productions we've done. It was Jerry's baby. He kept pushing me to do it. He loved its humanity…it was about people, it was about love."

JAMES M. NEDERLANDER, chairman of the board, Nederlander Producing Company of America
"Over the many years of working with Jerry we developed a deep, enduring friendship but this loss is not uniquely mine, nor his wife Pat's or that of his dear family. This is a loss for the American Theatre. His lifelong dedication to this industry and his position as one of its most celebrated leaders will remain as a testament to his capacity to love and nurture this business. I will miss my friend dearly." CHARLOTTE ST. MARTIN, executive director, The Broadway League
"When I met Jerry for the first time after I accepted the position of executive director at The Broadway League, he looked at me and said, 'Charlotte, we don't expect much from you. We just expect you to change the industry by bringing it into the 21st century.' The impact of that statement weighs heavily on my heart every day and also inspires me every day. Our hearts go out to the Schoenfeld family and to the Shubert family of employees. This legendary leader in the Broadway industry was also a champion of arts education and a tireless advocate for the improvement of New York City's Theatre District. Few others have had as profound impact on the history of the American theatre. We will miss him."

ROBERT NOLAN, president, NICK KALEDIN, secretary-treasurer, Association of Theatrical Press Agents & Managers (ATPAM)
"The officers, board of governors and Membership of ATPAM mourn the loss of our esteemed colleague and friend Gerald Schoenfeld. A wise counsel, a strong leader, an honest negotiator, and a great man of the theatre, he will be missed by us every day. Our deepest condolences go out to his beloved wife Pat, his colleagues at the Shubert Organization, and everyone on Broadway who shares our loss."

"I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Jerry Schoenfeld's death. Jerry touched my working life in an extraordinary way. From the time I began producing in the commercial theatre, which wasn't that long ago, he was always deeply kind and supportive and backed a huge amount of my work both in New York and in London. He gave me the confidence to keep going, when things were tough. He was never too busy to take my call and I always enjoyed his worldly advice. He trusted my judgment when others sometimes didn't and his passion and support often made work happen. He will be missed dearly. It is the end of an era."

MARK ZIMMERMAN, president, and JOHN P. CONNOLLY, executive director, Actors' Equity Association
"Gerald Schoenfeld was a true man of the theatre and unequaled in his vision and leadership. A gentleman in every way, he was also a fair but tough bargainer at the negotiating table and worked tirelessly to make Broadway the gold standard in American theatre. His passing is a great loss to us all, and our sympathies go to his family, The Shubert Organization and our colleagues in the theatre."

"I adored Jerry. My standing joke with him was that he should play Max in Sunset Boulevard. We bantered back and forth all the time. Broadway has lost a fantastic personality. My best to Pat at this difficult time."

"I first met Jerry in 1998 at the downtown production of Freak, but he had known my family for many years. He introduced himself and said, 'Come see me at the office.' I was 25 and scared to produce my first Broadway show, but through it all, he'd always say to me, 'Don't worry about it. It will be fine.' That was Jerry. I've never had a show that wasn't in one of his houses. He was always so encouraging — that is the thing that will be hardest about this. He was always behind me, always there for me, always watching out for me — no matter what the situation was. Doing a show without him will never be the same."

NEIL PEPE, director
"This is a sad day for the American theatre. Gerald Schoenfeld was one-of-a-kind and a true theatre legend. His passing feels like the end of an era. It is an honor to have directed my first Broadway show, Speed-the-Plow, in one of his beautiful theatres."

"Even the first time I met Jerry, 30 years ago, he was a larger-than-life force. He was passionate and demanding and made it seem that the impossible was expected. He mentored so many of this generation's leadership. I will miss his laugh and hugs."

OSKAR EUSTIS, artistic director, The Public Theater
"Jerry was a larger-than-life figure. He was a smart businessman and producer, but it was his love for the theatre, and the shows he produced, that will stay with me. I watched him fall in love with Stew and Passing Strange last year, and it was all the more beautiful because it was obvious even Jerry couldn't really explain why this story of a young African-American artist from Los Angeles moved him so much. (The closest he came was to describe their similar waistlines: 'Mesomorphs have to stick together.') But what he loved, he supported, and Passing Strange would never have gone to Broadway without him. As he did with so many of us, Jerry took me under his wing, gave me the tour of the Shubert offices, passed on the stories and knowledge gleaned from a lifetime of working on Broadway. On our second meeting, he took me into his office and read to me the first chapter of his still-unpublished memoirs. I was enthralled: they were smart, direct, and startlingly frank about his organization and career. His anger was formidable but his heart was generous. I never doubted that he saw himself as part of a community and of a noble profession. To say that he will be missed is trying to put words on the unnamable: none of us can imagine Broadway without him."

ANDREW D. HAMINGSON, executive director, The Public Theater
"I remember the first time I met Jerry: when he lectured at a class I was taking at NYU. For all of us who were just starting in the business, the chance to hear from Mr. Schoenfeld (or 'Mr. Shubert,' as we called him) was worth all of that tuition that we paid. Sure, he shared the war stories and talked about what it was like to run his incredible theatre organization — but what was life-changing was how he gently grilled us when we asked a question. 'What is it that you really want to know?' he would ask again and again — not being dismissive or cranky, but wanting the students to get at the essence of the question. He was, after all, an attorney and this was his way of teaching a bunch of theatre manager wannabes the Socratic Method: Get to the meat of the matter. Jerry was always happy to take a few minutes at an opening night or at a Broadway Association lunch to ask, 'How's it going, kid? What's on the horizon at your theatre?' And encouraging me to keep up the good work — keep doing great theatre. I will dearly miss that encouragement and that grilling. My thoughts are with Pat, all of Jerry's family, and the entire Shubert team."

"I've known Jerry…it feels like all my career. He was always there with his warm fatherly smile making you feel you always had a hit. Jerry was the theatre. I am shocked and saddened and will find it hard to think of the theatre without him."

"There are those people who as soon as you meet them, you just know how lucky you are to count them as your friend. Jerry's kindness and generosity to me for the past 15 years has been such a part of my career as a producer. Whether it was discussing a show, an opening night, or just to catch up, I would look forward to those meetings and phone calls. His wit...his wisdom...and all those wonderful stories! I simply cannot believe he is gone..."

Bernandette Peters and Gerald Schoenfeld
photo by Aubrey Reuben

"I can't imagine not seeing him at every opening night, sitting on the aisle. He was a great friend and supporter of the Broadway community. There will be a large void, and I will miss him." BOB BOYETT, producer
"On a day like today I can only think of my personal relationship with Jerry. From the very day I produced my first Broadway show, he gave me advice and guidance like a friend. He was never too busy to inquire about my personal health and well being. Although a man with great love for theatre and for the practice of good business principles, he was first and foremost a person who cared about people. He did expect a high standard of good behavior and decorum, but he was one of the most loyal people I have ever known. His many acts of personal kindness are too numerous to ever be recorded. He was always there for the worthy who needed a job or a little support along the way. Jerry was also a great wit and raconteur. To sit with him in his office and hear his many theatrical anecdotes was pure joy. I shall miss him terribly."

HOWARD SHERMAN, executive director, American Theatre Wing
"For generations now, it has been impossible to speak about Broadway without thinking of the enormous impact of Gerald Schoenfeld. His career was integral to the life of the Great White Way, and we hope that Pat and his family take comfort in knowing that his influence and his profound love of theatre has been felt and will continue to be felt by artists and audiences for generations to come."

"Jerry Schoenfeld was a consummate professional and a delightful gentleman. For over three decades he has been a friend, a mentor and, in every dealing I ever had with him, was someone whose word was his bond. He will be missed."

CHRIS BONEAU and ADRIAN BRYAN-BROWN, theatrical press agents, Boneau/Bryan-Brown
"[We] and everyone at BBB mourn the passing of Gerald Schoenfeld. Jerry was a true gentleman of the theatre who gave his heart and soul to Broadway. During his long and legendary career, he brought great talents to his theatres, championed the works of many artists and and brought tremendous joy to many, many people. Gerald Schoenfeld was a true leader, a mentor to scores of people within our industry and a remarkable teacher so willing to share his vast knowledge and love of the theatre. To say he was one of a kind is an understatement. He will be sorely missed."

MICHAEL PRESSER, executive director, Inside Broadway
"I am saddened to learn of the passing of Gerald Schoenfeld, a giant of the theatre industry and a great supporter of arts and education in the New York City public school system. Through the support of Jerry and Bernie Jacobs, Inside Broadway started the Cats student ticket program in 1982, a project that eventually brought over 750,000 students to their first Broadway experience. Jerry was a great champion of the importance in bringing children to the theatre and together with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein helped institute the Theatre Blueprint, the first formal theatre curriculum in the New York City schools system. On behalf of my colleagues at Inside Broadway and the one million plus students in our school system, we extend our sympathies to Pat Schoenfeld and the entire Shubert family. We will miss a great colleague, community leader and mentor."

CAROLE ROTHMAN, artistic director, Second Stage Theatre
"Although people probably thought of Jerry as Mr. Broadway, he was really a lover of all kinds of theatre. He encouraged us almost from the moment we started Second Stage and he climbed the stairs to see our work in our first tiny space. And he went out of his way to make sure we were okay in tough times and praise us in the good times. I'll sure miss those moments of hearing 'Mr. Schoenfeld is on the line for Miss Rothman' and then his booming voice and long convoluted stories, always ending with the question, 'Now tell me, dear, are you happy?"

MICHAEL HARTMAN and JOHN BARLOW, theatrical press agents, Barlow Hartman Public Relations
"To say that we were greatly privileged to work with Jerry since our careers began and that his passing is indeed the end of an era will be said by many and is true for those of us lucky enough to work in this industry. But what strikes us today is the quiet, low hum of sorrow on the street and in the rooms and theatres in which we, the industry, find ourselves. Barlow Hartman mourns the loss of a giant; a leader; and a friend."

FRAN and BARRY WEISSLER, producers
"Jerry Schoenfeld played an instrumental role in our success. From Othello, our first production on Broadway, to our current production of Chicago, Jerry was a friend, mentor and a colleague for over 26 years. He forever changed the landscape of the Great White Way. The entire industry will miss him terribly."

HAL LUFTIG, producer
"I first met Mr. Schoenfeld when I was a graduate student at Columbia University's School of the Arts. Every Friday the management students were invited into Mr. Schoenfeld's or Mr. Jacobs' office to observe. For me, it was like watching the Wizard from behind the curtain. The Shuberts were producing Dreamgirls at the time and Mr. Schoenfeld would regale us with stories of Michael Bennett and the formation of the national tour. One day after class Mr. Schoenfeld asked me to stay after class, and I was certain I was going to be asked to leave the program. Rather, Mr. Schoenfeld said he could see on my face how much I loved this business and that if I ever needed his help, feel free to call. He has been my mentor and friend ever since. He spent the next 24 years trying to get me to call him Jerry, but to me he will always be Mr. Schoenfeld."

TIM SANFORD, artistic director, Playwrights Horizons
"It's hard to imagine a theatrical landscape without Jerry's robust, indomitable passion for the theater, his appetite for the epochal and ambitious, for populist work that touches the hearts of many, but most of all for his keen, wise, and generous appreciation of the diverse ecology of theatrical work in this city and country that enriches so many artists and audiences on so many different levels. Let us not say, 'His legacy will be missed.' Let us rather vow to internalize and uphold his vision for a healthy, diverse, and vibrant theatre that remains a vital part of our larger cultural community."

ALBERT POLAND, general manager
"I was playing a parrot in a show at La Mama. The role called for me to be onstage as the audience arrived and Jerry began talking to me as soon as he and [his wife] Pat were seated. I answered back as the parrot, squawking and making conversation. 'Hi, Jerry (squawk, squawk!). How are you, Jerry? (squawk!)' The following day I got a phone call. 'Albert, when we are alone you may call me Jerry. But in public you must address me as Mr. Schoenfeld. And Albert, especially when you are a parrot, Albert.'"

TED CHAPIN, president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and chairman of the American Theater Wing
"Broadway has lost a great man. His passion for everything Broadway made him the consummate man of the theatre, and he will truly be missed. His jovial personality made being in a room with him a treat. Whether it was sharing opinions (he was not bashful), or deliberating over Tony Award rules and regulations (he was clear and thoughtful), he was always great to be with. We'll miss him — and now, waiting for his autobiography (the last conversation I had with him was about that) will be slightly melancholy. But I know it will be a good read."

JOAN RIVERS, actress
"I adored him. He was fun. He was smart. An era passes with him."

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