A host of celebrities were on hand to celebrate the 85th Birthday of Wynn Handman as well as honor the 45th anniversary of the American Place Theatre, of which Handman was a co-founder. But celebrities aside, Handman topped them all when the spotlight finally focused on him after all of those lauding him had their say at the event on May 21 at the Hudson Theatre.
Handman, seated center stage before a crowd at tables where they had been dining, regaled those attending with anecdotes about his past, praise for his many students and reminiscences about the American Place Theatre and the productions that he brought to the public over the years. He exhibited a sparkling sense of humor and enthusiasm that has lasted through the decades. He had some sage advice for those working in the theater and projected the charm and wisdom that has made him an icon for so many who had worked or studied with him.
A sketch directed by Ed Sherin was performed in his honor, with various former students and colleagues taking part. Among the notables who spoke were actor playwright Sam Shepard, who recalled humorously the leeway Handman extended when Shepard was a youth who didn’t know many bounds. Among others on hand to pay tribute were Joanne Woodward, Olympia Dukakis, Barbara Cook, Doris Roberts and Sam Waterston.
The event was a benefit for the American Place Theatre's “Literature to Life” program, which offers one-actor performances that tour schools libraries and community centers, drawing upon classic novels, memoirs and oral histories.