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Tony Interview Special: Manny Azenberg on His Fondness for DEATH OF A SALESMAN, the Changing Theatre Industry, and More!


Earlier this month, the 2012 Tony Awards Nominations were announced by Tony winning actress Kristin Chenoweth and Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor Jim Parsons. The Tony Awards will be broadcast in a live three-hour ceremony from the Beacon Theatre, on the CBS television network on Sunday, June 10, 2012.

BroadwayWorld was there for this year's official Tony Brunch, and got a chance to chat with this year's nominees!  Today we bring you Lifetime Achievement honoree Emanuel 'Manny' Azenberg.

Congrats on this amazing honor!

You have to live a lifetime to get it, so that’s a little depressing. But no, it's wonderful to be acknowledged. And to be acknowledged in anything in your life is really terrific. You don’t solicit for it or do anything like that but one day the phone rings…

What was your initial reaction when you got the news?

Nick Scandalios called me and said, “You better sit down.” There’s no way I’m glib enough to deal with all of it. You have to find the right grace. It’s easy to give, but the grace of receiving is something different. Then I took a look at what they prepared with my resume and that was impressive to look at all of those plays. The first one was in 1959 called THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE- it ran two performances and I got paid $60 a week. I think I produced about 70 productions, and the other 100, I was either the manager of or something else.

Is there any particular project from your career that you hold close to your heart?

Probably the totality of Neil Simon. Also the three projects I did with Tom Stoppard. Mike Nichols is here today, and we did about seven together. Just to be in a room with those gifted people is the real recognition. When you’re accepted as a producer, that’s always been depicted as a curmudgeon, by Mike [Nichols] and Stoppard then I guess it’s okay.

What's been the biggest change in the industry since you got your start?

Plays used to run for a year or two, and that provided a lot of jobs. Some would go out on tour, and there would be a bus and truck company. If you look at the Neil Simon trilogy, it provided jobs for Jason Alexander, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Robert Sean Leonard, Fisher Stevens, Jon Cryer- a whole army of people who had work.

Now we don’t have plays that tour for more than four months and that’s painful. And the playwrights obviously don’t get paid a lot so they have to write films and television. Most of their time is spent there.

Are there any productions from this season that you’ll be rooting for come Tony night?

Well the truth is that I just love SALESMAN. I hadn’t gone back to see that play because I saw it when I was fourteen and it was ‘the play.’ I didn’t see the Brian Dennehy or the Dustin Hoffman version. But this one I walked out and said ‘This is the greatest play of the 20th century.’ You pay attention. You don’t even cough. It’s not just about fathers and sons, but fathers and mothers and brothers. It’s about value systems, false values, and delusions, which is as applicable now as it was 60 years ago.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast in a live three-hour ceremony from the Beacon Theatre, on the CBS television network on Sunday, June 10, 2012.  Click here for the complete list of nominations! Click here for the nominations by the numbers. 

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