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January 13, 1989 - Image 74

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-13

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in Style

Yiddish Theater Becomes
Producer's Main Target


Special to The Jewish News


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roadway producer, Ar-
thur Cantor, has daz-
zled audiences in Lon-
don, Paris, New York, and
other major cities across the
U.S., with more than 100
theatrical productions. After
40 years in the business, this
show biz impresario has en-
joyed success with such plays
as The 10th Man, A Thou-
sand Clowns, the Pulitzer
Prize-winning All The Way
Home, The Constant Wife
starring Ingrid Bergman, and
Private Lives with Maggie
But now he's taking a dif-
ferent tack. He's exploring
Yiddish theater. He traces his
interest to his family.
Born in Boston to Yiddish-
speaking immigrants, Cantor
says of his childhood, "We
never had enough money, but
My parents were successful in
that we were a happy family."
During his boyhood, Cantor's
mother regularly took him to
performances of the Yiddish
theater. "Yiddish theater was
my reward for being a good
boy . . . I went every week, for
years, with my mother," Can-
tor said.
Seeking to recognize Yid-
dish theater's influence on
U.S. culture, the pleasure
millions derived from it, and
his own memories in this
medium, Cantor produced a
documentary on Yiddish
theater. He arranged for
financial backing, a produc-
tion team, and, since no ar-
chives of the Yiddish theater
existed, set about creating
one. Incorporated into the
film, the archives includes
still photographs, films of
1930 vintage Yiddish plays,
interviews of participants —
all narrated by the late
Herschel Bernardi, himself a
veteran of Yiddish theater.
Completed in 1967, The
Golden Age of Second Avenue
is the only documentary ever
made on the Yiddish theater.
"It's really a tribute to my
mother," Cantor explained.
Cantor will present his film
Sunday to the Batya Chapter
of Amit Women at 5:30 p.m.
at the Specs Howard School of
Broadcast Arts. Along with
the film, he will speak about
Yiddish theater and relate
his personal experiences.
A graduate of Harvard,
Cantor served in the Air
Force and subsequently went
to work as a theatrical press
agent, forming his own

Arthur Cantor

publicity company in the
mid-1950s. In the late '60s, he
began working for H.M. Ten-
nent, Ltd., a London
theatrical production com-
pany. Acting as American
representative for Hugh
"Binky" Beaumont, who,
Cantor says, "was one of the
great showmen of England
from the '30s on," his primary
involvement was in finding
funding for Tennent's
When Beaumont died in
1973, Cantor stepped into the
post of the company's manag-
ing director, thus embarking
on a period of almost 10 years
during which he commuted
back and forth. Cantor
recalls, "I'd spend two weeks
here, two weeks in England
and I got a little tired!' Plac-
ing even greater demands on
him at this time was the
death of his wife, leaving Can-
tor with three children to
raise. Now a director of the
company, he goes over to
England a few times a year.
"That other pace, for me, does
not exist anymore!" he said.
One of the last of Broad-
way's independent producers,
Cantor has amassed an im-
pressive array of theatrical
credits. Some of these are: Gi-
deon; Vivat Vivat Regina!
starring Claire Bloom and
Eileen Atkins; In Praise of
Love starring Rex Harrison
and Julie Harris; On Golden
Pond; Emlyn Williams in his
solo entertainments: Dylan
Thomas Growing Up, Playboy
of the Weekend World, A P-
arty with Betty Comden and
Adloph Green, Emlyn
Williams as Charles Dickens;
Fritz Weaver in The Biko In-
quest; Alec McCowen in St.
Mark's Gospel; Harold
Pinter's The Hothouse; Pack
of Lies; Ian McKellen Acting
Shakespeare; Elisabeth Welch:
Time to Start Living.

Involved in fulfilling a long-
time ambition, Cantor is ex-
cited about a new project.
"I've got a musical I'm doing
— a mega-musical version of
A Tale of Two Cities with
Michel Le Grand doing the
music," he said. Cantor also
manages an off-Broadway
theater, the Provincetown
Playhouse, and every year,
produces the Bil Baird
Marionettes. "I love puppets
and marionettes," he
Cantor is presently produc-
tion adviser to the Broadway
musical, Starlight Express,
which has been setting
records for weekly box-office
gross. Among a multitude of
responsibilities, Cantor must
prepare the advertising and
when neessary, locate cast
replacements. He frequently
contributes articles relative
to theater to various publica-
tions, among them the New
York Times. He co-authored a
book with Stuart Little, en-
titled The Playmakers. He
also operates a film distribu-
tion company.
Calling himself "tradi-
tional" and perhaps a bit
"prudish" when it comes to
material for the theater, Can-
tor, as his credits indicate, en-
joys producing plays with a
literary quality. It's no
wonder then, that he thinks
Broadway is "sick!'
"It's a cruel business, the
theater, but it will survive in
one form or another," he said.
"If it doesn't survive on
Broadway, it'll survive
somewhere else, away from
Times Square. I think one of
the interesting things about
it (theater) is that it doesn't
make any sense. It's no
_business for anybody who's
looking for steady nerves!"
Cantor, who entertains no
notions of slowing down, has,
in fact, a long list of projects
he'd like to tackle, including
the making of a few more
documentaries. "My problem
is that I just like to do
everything, but you can't do
Cantor makes his home in
the well-known Dakota apart-
ment building, where his
fellow residents include
Leonard Bernstein, Roberta
Flack, Yoko Ono, Connie
Chung and Lauren Bacall.
Cantor finds fulfillment in
his entertainment work and
sums up the pros and cons of
working in New York theater:
"The big asset of Broadway is
that it's very exciting — the
big liability is that it's too ex-






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