He Once Shilled for ‘Shogun.’ Then ‘Hamilton’ Came Along. | Modern Society of USA

He Once Shilled for ‘Shogun.’ Then ‘Hamilton’ Came Along.

He Once Shilled for ‘Shogun.’ Then ‘Hamilton’ Came Along.

How did you discover theater?

My junior year in college I got involved with the Penn State Thespians. Some friends of mine were involved, and the next thing you know, you’re painting sets, and then you’re the assistant stage manager, and then you’re the president.

You started in New York as an assistant to the publicist Shirley Herz.

I was answering phones and doing typing and opening the mail and mimeographing press releases, and I never left. She was one of the most influential people in my life, and until she died [in 2013], we worked in tandem.

What’s the most exciting project you worked on?

“Hamilton” is in a class by itself, and class is the operative word. I went to see it again a few weeks ago, and it was a very emotional experience — it’s a masterpiece, and everything about it is so compelling and so beautiful.

And the biggest flop?

“Shogun” seemed like a good idea for a musical, but when we got to the point where the ship wrecks on the rocky coast of Japan, and emerging from under the ship was dancing seaweed, we thought, “This is not good.” Not to mention the fact that on a press night the set fell and hit the lead actor — by the time Shirley and I got there, one or two press people had climbed up onstage, and the crew had put the actor in an ambulance. And that was the most positive coverage that show got — poor Philip Casnoff getting beaned by the set.

You worked with Edward Albee for a long time.

In 1980, Shirley got hired to do press for “The Lady From Dubuque.” That was during Edward’s bad-boy days, when he was drinking and acting out and being rude. He had two Pulitzers, but he was definitely falling out of favor, and he was going overseas to get his plays done. But then his personal assistant called and said he had a new play, at Vienna’s English Theater, and that was “Three Tall Women” — his third Pulitzer, and a big success. And then “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” became my play.

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