Sherman Yellen was born in 1932 to Nathan and Lillian Yellen. He attended the High School of Music & Art and graduated from Bard College on the Hudson in 1953 where he met Joan Fuhr. The couple wed after their graduation, and have two sons, Nicholas and Christopher.
At Bard, Yellen studied creative writing with Texas novelist William Humphrey, was named John Bard Scholar in his sophomore year and received the Wilton E. Lockwood Award for Literature upon graduation. In later years he received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters. He attended graduate school at Columbia University where he majored in 18th century English Literature.
Yellen's first play was New Gods For Lovers, which was produced at the HB Playhouse in New York. This play, entered in a playwrighting competition, won the Hallmark Award, and he began to write television drama for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and for NBC television, creating such shows as A Cry of Angels, Beauty and the Beast (Emmy nomination and Christopher Award) and the breakthrough drama about AIDS, An Early Frost (Emmy Award).
His American Civil War television drama, Day Before Battle, was written in collaboration with his friend, playwright Peter Stone, and appeared on Studio One. He went on to write notable adaptations of such literary classics as Great Expectations, Dr.Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera and The Last Giraffe - a contemporary show about the Rothschilds giraffe, as well as the PBS series The Adams Chronicles (Emmy Award).
Yellen's work in Broadway theatre includes his Tony-nominated libretto for the musical, The Rothschilds, with music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick; Rex, a musical about the life and loves of Henry VIII with music by Richard Rodgers - recently revised with Sheldon Harnick, and given a well received revival at the Toronto Light Opera Company and was staged in 2013 by the Utah Festival Opera; and Strangers, a biographical drama about Sinclair Lewis. His satirical sketch, Delicious Indignities, was a highlight of the ground-breaking erotic revue, Oh! Calcutta! He later incorporated the music of popular songwriter Jimmy McHugh into a new musical about young journalists in Paris in 1927, Lucky in the Rain, which had a successful run at the Goodspeed Opera. His collaboration with the late composer Wally Harper on Say Yes created a light hearted musical comedy about the 1939 New York World's Fair, produced in 2000 by The Berkshire Theatre Festival. In both this work and Josephine Tonight!, a musical biography of the early life of Josephine Baker produced by Theatre Building Chicago, Yellen was librettist and lyricist to composer Harper. "Josephine Tonight!" was recently revived as "Blackbird" and was staged in Washington, D.C. and Florida.
Yellen's most recent straight play was December Fools, a comedy-drama about a musical comedy composer's widow and her contentious daughter; two women locked into the past who are struggling with each other in the present, produced by Abingdon Theatre Arts in New York, and in the same year, 2006, Josephine Tonight was produced by Theatre Building Chicago, a musical which The Chicago Sun-Times called a "shining new musical." Josephine Tonight! was revised by Yellen for a five actor African American cast in which the cast covers all the parts, black and white. It was produced in this form in 2012 at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia.
Select film/television credits
- Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (TV movie) - Writer (teleplay) 1990
- I'll Take Manhattan (TV mini-series) - Writer (writer) 1987
- An Early Frost (TV movie) - Writer (story) 1985
- The Phantom of the Opera (1983 TV movie) - Writer (writer) 1983
- The Last Giraffe (TV movie) - Writer (writer) 1979
- Hallmark Hall of Fame (TV series) - Writer (1 episode, 1976): "Beauty and the Beast"
- The Adams Chronicles (PBS Series) - Writer 1976
- Great Expectations (TV movie) - Writer (writer) 1974
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (TV movie) - Writer (writer) 1973
- Oh! Calcutta! - Writer (contributions) 1972
- The Iron Horse (TV series) - Writer (1 episode, 1967): "Welcome for the General"
- 12 O'Clock High (TV series) - Writer (1 episode, 1965): "Target 802"
- Studio One in Hollywood (TV series) - Writer (1 episode, 1956): "A Day Before Battle"
- Josephine Tonight" (revised five character version) Metro Stage, Written by Sherman Yellen -2012
- December Fools (Original, play) Written by Sherman Yellen - 2006
- Josephine Tonight! (Original TBC Chicago studio production of musical) Book and Lyrics by Sherman Yellen - 2006
- This Fair World (Original, Musical) Book by Sherman Yellen
- Say Yes! aka This Fair World (Original, Musical) Book by Sherman Yellen - 2000
- Lucky in the Rain (Original, Musical) Book by Sherman Yellen - 1997
- Strangers (Original, Play) Written by Sherman Yellen - 1979
- Oh! Calcutta! (Revival, Musical, Revue) - Sketch contribution ("Delicious Indignities") by Sherman Yellen - 1976-89
- Rex (Original, Musical) - Book by Sherman Yellen - 1976; revised version Toronto Light Opera Company 2010
- The Rothschilds (Original, Musical) - Book by Sherman Yellen - 1970-72
- Oh! Calcutta! (Original, Musical, Revue) - Contributions by Sherman Yellen - 1969-72
- Hallmark Award - New Gods for Lovers
- Christopher Award - Hallmark Hall of Fame ("Beauty and the Beast" episode)
- Emmy Award - The Adams Chronicles
- Emmy Award - An Early Frost
- Sherman Yellen papers, 1957-2015, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
- Sherman Yellen on the Internet Movie Database
- Sherman Yellen on the Internet Broadway Database
- Sherman Yellen on The Huffington Post
- Sherman Yellen on The Environmentalist
- Interview with Sherman Yellen on Theatre in Chicago
- Review of Yellen's 'Josephine Tonight!'
- "NBC Wins 15 Emmys In Technical Categories". New York Times. September 9, 1986. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "American's Best Colleges - Notable Alumni". Forbes. 08.05.09. Retrieved 9 August 2013. Check date values in:
- "HB Studio Playhouse 1971-1972 Season". HB Studio Playhouse. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Beauty and the Beast (1976)". IMDB.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A MINISERIES OR A SPECIAL 1986". An Early Frost. Emmys.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "An Early Frost". IMDB.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Levy, Emmanuel. "Early Frost: First TV Movie about AIDS". Cinema 24/7. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Day Before Battle". IMDB.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Sherman Yellen". IMDB.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Keating, Douglas J. (May 5, 1993). "'The Rothschilds' Follows Family's Road To Riches". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Howard, Rebecca (Jul 3, 2013). "UFOMT season will include a Rodgers rarity". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Markowitz, Joel. "Sherman Yellen on ‘Josephine Tonight’". DC Metro Arts. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- GENZLINGER, NEIL (February 6, 2006). "Those Secrets in the Attic (Well, the Desk Drawer)". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Handelman, Jay (April 13, 2012). "'Blackbird' celebrates the life of Josephine Baker". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Marx, Peter (August 25, 1997). "THEATER REVIEW; Gertrude Stein and Alice Strut on the Sunny Side". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2013.