By Anne Hamilton, M.F.A. —

On November 25, Gerald Schoenfeld, the longtime Chairman of the Shubert Organization, suffered a heart attack in his Manhattan home. Shock waves went through the Broadway community. I was devastated by his death because he was the closest thing to a “father of my heart” that I had. I’ve worked in the professional theatre in New York for almost 20 years, and Gerry gave a lot of life to my experience, first as my professor at Columbia, and then as my mentor and champion.

I’ve realized throughout the years that I’ve collected father figures, and they include my own father, George, as well as my Uncle Robert. My father is a man of few words who always gets to the bottom line, and my Uncle Robert has a particular interest in social and political history. I love them both very much, and I’m lucky they’re still alive and healthy at advanced ages.

But Gerry was a theatre man with an ebullient personality and a fully welcoming demeanor. Although he was the most important man on Broadway, he always made time to talk to me, and he helped me through every stage of my career since I met him in 1991. He always granted me an appointment when I asked for his time.

We would sit on his couch in the Shubert offices on 43rd Street, and talk about life. He would listen to my concerns and respond with stories about his own life. And he would give me advice.  We had a lot in common, perhaps more than I think I have with my own father. My devastation leaves me with the selfish question, “Who is going to help me now?”

As I struggled with my feelings and spoke with others who knew and loved him well, I found that it would be helpful for me to think of a view of my loss that would be constructive and meaningful. “What did I learn from knowing Gerry?” I asked myself. Here’s how I responded to that question.

Gerald Schoenfeld, 1924-2008: In Memoriam

I lost a great friend on November 25, 2008. His name was Gerald Schoenfeld. He was 84 years old and I knew him for almost twenty years. He was like a father to me.

I’ve been thinking about all the things he told me in our conversations in order to gain some insight about creating a well-lived life. It could not have been easy for him as a young man to go overseas and fight in World War II. It could not have been easy for him to come back from the war and decide what to do next with his life. It could not have been easy for him to start working for the Shubert Organization after law school when the dynasty was beginning to literally fall apart. Or to impose stability on the Organization and make it solvent. Or to guide it through the recession and near collapse of the City of New York in the nineteen-seventies. Or to work full steam ahead every day of the week when he was nearing his ninth decade on this planet.

He had to be as tough as nails to complete all those deals on Broadway throughout the years. I began to see a picture of a man constantly making order out of chaos. To me, Gerry had a keen mind coupled with a generous and kind spirit. He was absolutely focused on what was happening in the moment. He spoke to the need or the question of the moment with clarity, insight, and confidence. His few words always had meaning and impact.

He left me a legacy. How I think, what I do with my time, what I want. I try to get to the point like Gerry. Walk into a situation with an open mind. Listen carefully. Be generous. Not waste time. Cultivate new opportunities. Invite others to approach me again. Leave satisfied that I handled the matter at hand.

Knowing Gerry has changed my life path. I am a better person for knowing him. I loved him very much and I miss him dearly.

Anne Hamilton is an award-winning Columbia University graduate and the principal of Hamilton Dramaturgy. To ask Anne for help on developing your own play, screenplay, poetry, fiction or non-fiction, please contact her at

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Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton is an NYC-based freelance dramaturg and the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, an international consultancy. She created Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow!, where she hosts and produces an oral history podcast series of important theatre women working in America. Anne has dramaturged for Andrei Serban, Michael Mayer, Lynn Nottage, NYMF, Niegel Smith, Classic Stage Company, and the Great Plains Theatre Festival, among others. She is also an award-winning playwright. Her chapter, “Freelance Dramaturgs in the 21st Century: Journalists, Advocates, and Collaborators” appears in The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy. She was a Bogliasco Foundation Fellow, won the Dean’s Prize for Dramaturgy at Columbia University School of the Arts, and holds dual citizenship in Italy and the United States. Anne lost her best friend Curtis in a head-on car accident in 1979, two weeks after his high school graduation. Her emotional life became frozen and she has spent the last thirty-two years exploring all areas of self-expression, particularly through stage plays, poetry, theatre, art, and music. She is currently developing her own chamber-play-with-dance entitled ANOTHER WHITE SHIRT, about the way that grief moves through the body.

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