First thing you should know about Emanuel Azenberg. He likes to be called Manny. He grew up in Bronx, an origin that he is proud of and has clearly affected his personality. He became to be interested in theater after seeing his uncle in a Broadway play.But it was only after serving time in the American Army, he actually worked in the theater industry. He started as General Manager and became one of the most successful Broadway producers. His work span over musicals such as Rent, The Wiz, Sunday in the Park with George and great play as Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. His productions have received 134 Tony Award nominations and won 41 Tony Awards, numerous Drama Desk Awards. In 2009 He was elected to the American Theater Hall of Fame.
In an interview with the New York Times, Azenberg observed, “I am not a deep thinker. I am not a writer, though I recognize good ideas when I see them. I am there to service people. A producer creates an atmosphere — or tries to — that is genuinely comfortable, so the best creative work can take place.” I believe that it is because of his respect for playwright that Manny has been able to retain great friendships with the playwrights he has worked with.
He has a long-standing professional relationship with Neil Simon, one of the great American Playwrights. Their professional association began with The Sunshine Boys in 1972 and continued with The Good Doctor,God’s Favorites, Chapter Two, They’re playing our Song, I Ought to be in the Pictures, Brighton Beach Menoirs,Broadway Bound, Lost in Yonkers, Jake’s Women, The Goodbye Girl among others.
In addition, he has a strong connection with Tom Stoppard and produced many of his theatrical plays as well as being a producer with his film Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. With Tom Stoppard’s work, Manny considers Arcadia as one of the great plays in 20 century. To Manny, The Real Thing reveals more about people’s relationships then any other “psychology theory.” On a personal level, he described Tom Stoppard as “a true gentleman.”
Although Manny has had a thriving career theater, he does have a pessimistic view of theater industry now. “Broadway is a theme park now…people go to the theater to be entertained. When we bought a ticket to a play, we knew we would get depressed.” I can see his point when looking at Broadway’s playbill features shows such as Addams Family and Rock of Ages. Manny blames the capitalism within theater now. It takes a large investment to produce a theater production, and thus the ticket prices are higher. He argued that theater isn’t as accessible to society anymore, so the economics of theater has to change.
Although he has worked in the industry for a long period, he clearly still has a passion for theater. He still continues to read scripts and often reread his past productions. He can easily recite from Tom Stoppard and Neil Simon at a moments notice. His favorite quotation is from Tom Stoppart’s The Real Thing. “Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight. Equilibrium is pragmatic. You have to get everything into proportion. You compensate, rebalance yourself so that you maintain your angle to the world. When the world shifts, you shift.”