Waxman, Al

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WAXMAN, AL (1936–2001), Canadian actor, director, teacher. Waxman was born in Toronto. His parents, immigrants from Poland, owned and operated a small restaurant in downtown Toronto. His mother continued in the food service industry after her husband died when Al was only nine years old. From his early teens Waxman wanted to be an actor and, by the time he was 17, he was performing in live cbc radio dramas. He gathered together enough money to study theater at New York's Playhouse Theater before moving to London in 1961 for further study. He struggled to find acting jobs in London and Hollywood and appeared in several films. His acting breakthrough came after his return to Toronto, where he was hired for a starring role in the sitcom The King of Kensington, a successful Canadian series that ran for five seasons. He added to his own celebrity as a regular character in the American television detective series Cagney & Lacey, which ran for 125 episodes beginning in 1981. Waxman never again lacked for work as an actor on televison, in films, or on stage. After a career that spanned more than 50 years, Waxman is regarded as a pioneer in Canadian theater, television, and film. He acted in, directed, produced, or wrote more than 1,000 radio, television, theater, and film productions. He also taught theater for 10 years at York University in Toronto. In the years before his death, Waxman was drawn to the stage. In 1997 he played the role of Willy Loman in the Stratford Festival production of Death of a Salesman. The year before his death, he directed a well-received production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and at the time of his death, Waxman was about to play Shylock in the Stratford production of The Merchant of Venice.

Waxman was honored with many awards and was active in many Jewish and larger community organizations. In 1997 he was named to the Order of Canada, the highest award Canada can bestow on a citizen.

[Joel Greenberg (2nd ed.)]