Azenberg, Emanuel

views updated


AZENBERG, EMANUEL (1934– ), U.S. theatrical producer. Born in a Yiddish-speaking household in the Bronx to Joshua Charles Azenberg, the manager of a Labor-Zionist organization, and Hannah Kleiman Azenberg, he attended New York University and served in the United States Army. He said he first became interested in theater when he went to see his uncle portray a rabbi in a play with John *Garfield in 1948 called Skipper Next to God. Azenberg worked for David *Merrick, a prolific Broadway producer, on 22 shows and for Alexander *Cohen before teaming with Eugene Wolsk in 1966 to produce The Lion in Winter with Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris. That was followed almost immediately by Mark Twain Tonight! with Hal Holbrook. Both were successes.

In 1972 Azenberg produced his first Neil *Simon play, Sunday in New York, which was followed by 60 other Broadway stage productions, including virtually all of Simon's 30 comedies, among them: The Sunshine Boys, Chapter Two, They're Playing Our Song, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, and Lost in Yonkers, all major successes. In addition Azenberg produced for Broadway Ain't Misbehavin', Children of a Lesser God, Master Harold … and the Boys, The Real Thing, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Sunday in the Park With George, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and The Iceman Cometh. He received 134 Tony nominations and won 41 Tony Awards. He also taught at Duke University from 1985.

In Azenberg's office are reminders of his commitment to Jewish causes, including photographs with Israeli notables. He said he was pulled out of school in 1948 to meet Chaim *Weizmann when he traveled to New York as the first president of the new Jewish state. Azenberg spent most of his childhood summers at Camp Kinderwelt, a Labor-Zionist retreat in Highland Mills, New York. Kinderwelt left a strong enough impression on him that a camp photograph from 1948 adorned his office. His fellow campers included the novelist Leonard Michaels, the sculptor Chaim *Gross, and the film directors Martin *Ritt and Sidney *Lumet. "All of Manny's ethical values he learned at camp," said a long-time friend. "Manny is the epitome of Yiddishe neshuma."

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]