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Wynn Handman, (born May 19, 1922) is the Artistic Director of The American Place Theatre, which he co-founded with Sidney Lanier and Michael Tolan in 1963. His role in the theatre has been to seek out, encourage, train, and present new and exciting writing and acting talent and to develop and produce new plays by living American writers. In addition, he has initiated several Arts Education Programs, such as Literature to Life. Handman grew up in the Inwood neighborhood in Upper Manhattan.
Handman has been instrumental in bringing to the stage the early work of many of America’s finest playwrights, including William Alfred, Ed Bullins, Phillip Hayes Dean, Werner Liepolt, Maria Irene Fornes, Ron Milner, Jonathan Reynolds, Ronald Ribman, Sam Shepard, and Steve Tesich. He has introduced plays by writers from other areas, such as Donald Barthelme, Robert Lowell, George Tabori, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Penn Warren. Important writer/performers received early recognition through their work at The American Place Theatre, including Eric Bogosian for Drinking in America, John Leguizamo for Mambo Mouth, Aasif Mandvi for Sakina’s Restaurant, and Dael Orlandersmith for Beauty’s Daughter and Bill Irwin for The Regard of Flight, which was later aired on television in 1983.
He is a recipient of the 1999 Obie for Sustained Achievement; the Lucille Lortel Award for Lifetime Achievement presented by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres in 1993; the Rosetta LeNoire Award in 1994 from the Actors' Equity Association in recognition of his artistic achievements and contribution to the “universality of the human experience in American theatre”; two Audelco for Excellence in Black Theatre Awards, as Best Director for Zora Neale Hurston, in 1990, and Fly in 1998; the Carnegie Mellon Drama Commitment to Playwriting Award in 1996; the Working Theatre’s Sanford Meisner Service Award for “his leadership in disseminating the arts to working people,” and was honored by The New Federal Theatre in 2001. In addition, he received from the Alumni Association of City College of New York, The Townsend Harris Medal, “in recognition of his distinguished contributions to his chosen field of work and the welfare of his fellow men." In May 2003, Handman was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Miami.
Plays he has directed at The American Place Theatre include: Manchild in the Promised Land, which he adapted from the novel by Claude Brown; I Stand Before You Naked by Joyce Carol Oates; Words, No Music by Calvin Trillin; Drinking in America by Eric Bogosian; A Girl’s Guide to Chaos by Cynthia Heimel; Free Speech in America, and Bibliomania by Roger Rosenblatt, with Ron Silver; Coming Through also adapted by Handman; Spokesman written and performed by John Hockenberry; Fly by Joseph Edward; and Dreaming in Cuban and Other Works: Rhythm, Rum, Café con Leche and Nuestros Abuelos by Cristina Garcia and Michael Garcés. Also, he has adapted and directed many of the American Humorists’ Series productions.
A noted teacher for over 50 years, in his professional acting classes, Handman has trained many outstanding actors including: Alec Baldwin, James Caan, Kathleen Chalfant, Chris Cooper, Michael Douglas, Sandy Duncan, Christopher George, Richard Gere, Joel Grey, Allison Janney, Raul Julia, Frank Langella, John Leguizamo, Susan Lucci, Donna Mills, Burt Reynolds, Tony Roberts, Anna Deveare Smith, Mira Sorvino, Christopher Walken, Denzel Washington, Lauren Graham, and Joanne Woodward.
Handman was married to political consultant and arts advocate Bobbie Handman, who died November 13, 2013. Their daughter, Laura Handman, is the wife of Harold M. Ickes. Their other daughter, Liza Handman, is the Vice President of Creative at Drury Design Dynamics, a leader in the meetings and events industry.
- Ryzik, Melena. "Nearly 60 Years and Counting, Working on the Art of Theater", The New York Times, May 20, 2007. "He grew up in Inwood, on a dirt road, fishing for crabs off a dock on Dyckman Street. “I had a country boyhood in Upper Manhattan,” he said."
- Cumberland Evening Times, "TV Cameos: Chris George, Career Rolls Into High Gear On Video", by Ed Misurell, p. 9, 12 November 1966.