Broadway Producer Martin Markinson Has Died at 89

Markinson's Broadway productions included Torch Song Trilogy (1982, Tony Award Best Play 1983, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play 1983), and more.

By: Jan. 11, 2021
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

Broadway Producer Martin Markinson Has Died at 89

Martin Markinson, one of the leading Broadway producers and independent theatre owners of the past 50 years, died on Thursday, January 7th at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico surrounded by love. He was 89 years old.

Arlena Markinson, his wife of 58 years who was with him when he died, confirmed that he succumbed to a long battle with cancer that spread through his body over the last two years.

As the Broadway industry became more corporate towards the end of the last century with productions and theatres operated by conglomerates and large not-for-profit organizations, Martin "Marty" Markinson maintained and flourished as a distinct independent producer and landlord, bringing some of the best-known shows of the era to New York.

Markinson was known as a gentleman and a man of his word - qualities that he greatly valued in his personal and professional life. He adored and cherished his family, and was a loyal friend to many. He will be deeply missed.

His Broadway productions included Torch Song Trilogy (1982, Tony Award Best Play 1983, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play 1983), The Gathering starring Hal Linden (2001), George Gershwin Alone starring Hershey Felder (2001), Honeymoon in Vegas, Gigi and On Your Feet (2015), Getting and Spending (1998), Corpse! (1986), Peter Nichol's Passion (1983) and Ned and Jack (1981).

On Broadway, Markinson also served as an associate producer on Chicago (1975), Poor Murderer (1976), Some of My Best Friends (1977), Cheaters (1978) and Whoopee! (1979).

Off-Broadway and regional productions included The Florida Follies, I Love a Piano, Matter of Honor, And a Nightingale Sang, Daddy Goodness, Snoopy, Crucifer of Blood, Some of My Best Friends, Golda's Balcony, Come Fly with Me, The Exact Center of the Universe, Dinah, Pageant: The Musical, The Sunshine Boys, Dusky Sally, Nagasaki Dust, The Last Minstrel Show.

Markinson's movie productions included Seduced by Evil starring Suzanne Somers and Snitch, an independent feature starring Marlee Matlin and Mariette Hartley.

Martin "Marty" Markinson was born on December 23, 1931, one of five siblings, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. His father Abraham, a sewing machine repairman, came from Russia in the early 1900s. Following his father's death, at the age of 11, Markinson moved for two years to Florida with his mother, Dora, and then returned to Brooklyn.

Starting with his first job at the age of 12 in 1943 as a newspaper boy, Markinson was always employed. As a teen, while living on his own but nearby his three older married sisters in Brooklyn, he was a shoe store stock boy, a restaurant busboy, set pins in a bowling alley before automation, and ushered at a movie theater. While ushering, his love of storytelling and the entertainment business took hold and, with his own father deceased, the on-screen Cary Grant became a male figure to emulate.

Markinson recounts these and many other stories in his recently published memoir, Come on Along and Listen to My Life in Theatre (Archway Publishing, 2019,;

As he states in his memoir, "It was because of [my three sisters'] big, nurturing hearts that I was such a happy, confident kid - despite the fact that my parents were out of the picture so early in my life."

At 16, Markinson took a job in his brother-in-law Ben Tick's (sister Sally's husband and Donald's father) insurance company, Tick & Co, as a runner until he enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, where he served for three years. Following his service in 1953, with a GED in hand, he returned to Tick & Co to learn the insurance business and where, in 1970, he purchased Ben's interest to co-own and expand the business with his nephew, Donald Tick. Markinson remained with the company until he sold his interest to Donald's son Jeffrey Tick in the late 1980s.

Markinson met his wife-to-be Arlena (Gelfand) on Fire Island in 1960 and they were married two years later. They raised their three children in Stamford, CT and moved to Santa Fe, NM in the 1990s. For the last five years they spent much of their time between Santa Fe and Maui. Until recently, Markinson travelled to New York City several times a year in connection with his work at the Helen Hayes Theatre and, as a Tony voter, to see all Broadway shows that opened each season.

In 1970, as part of Markinson and Donald Tick's expansion of Tick & Co, they bought an insurance agency, owned by Joe Harris, that handled entertainment clients. This introduced Markinson to the theatre world that he would thrive in for the rest of his life, and led to an offer in 1975 to consult on the insurance and invest in the original production of Chicago, his first of many Broadway shows.

In 1979 Markinson and Donald Tick bought the Little Theatre (now Second Stage/Helen Hayes Theatre) from Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. In 1983 Miss Helen Hayes accepted Markinson's offer to name the theatre in her honor after the original Helen Hayes Theatre was demolished.

Markinson and Donald Tick co-owned and operated the Helen Hayes Theatre until Tick's passing in 2006, at which time his son, Jeffrey Tick (Markinson's great-nephew) became Markinson's day-to-day partner running the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Markinson also leased three other theatres as an operator, the Wadsworth and Brentwood Theatres in Los Angeles between 1998 and 2010, and the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale from 2000 to 2006.

In 2008 Second Stage expressed interest in buying the Helen Hayes Theatre, which was not on the market at the time. The Markinson and Tick families decided that given the economies of operating the smallest commercial Broadway theatre, they would sell the theatre to the not-for-profit Second Stage, and the sale closed in 2015. Separate deals to sell the air rights to real estate developers concluded in 2016.

Martin Markinson is survived by his wife Arlena, two sons and four grandchildren: Brett Markinson, wife Alison and grandchildren Jade and Jasmine; and Keith Markinson, wife Lisa and grandchildren Luke and Bennett. In addition to Jeffrey Tick, Markinson is also survived by several other nieces, great-nieces, nephews, great-nephews, including Alan Markinson who was House Manager at the Helen Hayes Theatre from 1981 and for most years thereafter until 2016.

Markinson loved giving back to his Sante Fe community, sharing stories and teaching, and often lecturing at colleges and libraries including Yale University (2006 Honorary Member, Class of 1951) and other well-known east coast universities. In his retirement, being an author fulfilled another life-long dream. Aside from being a committed NY Giants football fan, he greatly enjoyed playing golf with his wife.

Martin Markinson was a member of the Broadway League and served on the Board of Governors for many years.

Tonight, President & Artistic Director Carole Rothman of Second Stage, the Hayes current owner, released the following statement: "It is with great sadness that I have learned that Marty Markinson, the previous owner of the Hayes Theater, has passed away. Marty was instrumental to Second Stage by offering to sell us the Hayes, our current Broadway home.

From the first moment I met with him, I realized that Marty was a true theater lover and in his heart wanted to do everything he could to pass his jewel of a theater along to us. He understood our precarious real estate situation, admired the work we did, and wanted to help.

It's not that he didn't strike a hard bargain, he was a great businessman. But he was immensely fair. When we needed more time to raise the money right in the midst of the recession in 2008, he understood. Along with his associate Susan Myerberg, he would take me to lunch whenever he was in town, to discuss our progress. He had a keen interest in how a nonprofit worked and over the years, he became a frequent audience member at our productions.

I know he was beloved in the theater community for his commitment to Broadway. And the artists who worked in shows at the Hayes felt his total support. It's sometimes hard to sell a home that has been a major part of your life and there were possibly moments of regret, but he was true to his word and completed the sale he promised.

Thanks to Marty, Second Stage now has a permanent home to produce the work of living American writers. We are the only theater on Broadway with that mission. Although I wasn't there the day Marty took a tour of the renovated space, the code updates, the new dressing rooms, the redone lobbies, the Rockwell designs, I was told he was pleased that his jewel had received such care. That was a generous gesture of his unwavering support.Marty was one of the great ones, I mourn his passing, but am grateful and honored to have known him."