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Wynn Handman

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Wynn Handman
Handman working in his studio on West 54th Street in New York
Irwin Leo Handman[1]

(1922-05-19)May 19, 1922
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 11, 2020(2020-04-11) (aged 97)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Teacher, director, producer
Years active1944–2020
SpouseBarbara Ann Schlein (1950-2013; her death)

Wynn Handman (May 19, 1922 – April 11, 2020) was 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 was 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 initiated several Arts Education Programs, such as Literature to Life. His life and the history of The American Place Theatre are the subjects of the 2019 documentary It Takes a Lunatic.

Handman died during the COVID-19 pandemic due to complications brought on by COVID-19.

Early life


Handman grew up in the Inwood neighborhood in Upper Manhattan.[2] Handman studied acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City. In 1949 he created the role of Sentry Hallam in the world premiere of Louis O. Coxe and Robert H. Chapman's Uniform of Flesh; which later was retitled Billy Budd for its critically successful run on Broadway in 1951.[3][4]

Directing career


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 García and Michael Garcés. Also, he has adapted and directed many of the American Humorists' Series productions.

Teaching career


A teacher for over 50 years, in his professional acting classes, Handman trained many actors including Michael Douglas,[5] and Christopher George.[6]

In December 2013, a book by Jeremy Gerard was published entitled Wynn Place Show: A Biased History of the Rollicking Life & Extreme Times of Wynn Handman and the American Place Theatre. A party to honor the book and Handman, at The Players Club in Manhattan, was featured in The New York Times, and included grateful Handman students such as Richard Gere, Frank Langella and John Leguizamo.[7]

Personal life


Handman was born in New York City, New York, the son of Anna (Kemler), a saleswoman at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nathan Handman, who ran a printing business. His parents were Jewish emigrants, his father from Minsk, Belarus, and his mother from Płońsk, Poland.[1][8]

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.

Handman died on April 11, 2020, in New York City at the age of 97 from COVID-19.[9][10]



Further reading

  • Gerard, Jeremy. Wynn Place Show: A Biased History of the Rollicking Life & Extreme Times of Wynn Handman and the American Place Theatre. Hanover, NH: Smith & Kraus, 2013. Print.


  1. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (April 14, 2020). "Wynn Handman, Influential Director and Teacher, Dies at 97". The New York Times.
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ Legitimate: Plays on Broadway - Uniform of Flesh. Vol. 173. February 2, 1949. p. 52. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  4. ^ OUTER CIRCLE NAMES 'BILLY BUDD' BEST PLAY. May 27, 1951. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Parker, John (2011). Michael Douglas: Acting on Instinct. Headline (Hachette Book Group). ISBN 9780755362868. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  6. ^ Cumberland Evening Times, "TV Cameos: Chris George, Career Rolls Into High Gear On Video", by Ed Misurell, p. 9, November 12, 1966.
  7. ^ Healy, Patrick (December 25, 2013). "Apples for a Seasoned Acting Teacher". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  8. ^ "So Long Sweet Prince: Acting Coach Wynn Handman Passes on – Times Square Chronicles". April 14, 2020.
  9. ^ Wynn Handman, co-founder of the American Place Theatre, dies at 97
  10. ^ Evans, Greg (April 13, 2020). "Wynn Handman Dies Of COVID-19: American Place Theatre Co-Founder, Teacher Of Future Stars Was 97". Deadline. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  11. ^ The Townsend Harris Medalists Retrieved March 6, 2021
  12. ^ The Lucille Lortel Awards 1986 - 2000 Nominees and Recipients Retrieved March 6, 2021
  13. ^ Rosetta LeNoire Award List at Actors' Equity.org Retrieved March 6, 2021
  14. ^ The Working Theater Annual Awards Ceremony Retrieved March 6, 2021
  15. ^ ObieAwrds.com Retrieved March 6, 2021