Press Agent Susan L. Schulman
By Lauren Yarger
With the death of Broadway Publicist Susan L. Schulman,
we have lost not only one of our best press agents and a trailblazer for women
in the industry, but one of the most enthusiastic lovers and supporters that
Broadway has ever known. Additionally, I have lost a good friend.
Born and raised in New York City, Susan was a graduate of
New York University and Columbia. She began her career at Lincoln Center before
beginning a career working with theatrical publicists Bill Doll, Mary Bryant,
Arthur Cantor, Frank Goodman and Merle Debuskey. Among the shows she worked on
in the 1970s were the original productions of Applause, Company,
Sly Fox, Follies and Dancin'.
In the late ’70s she decided to go out on her own and
opened her own theatrical press office in the Paramount Building in Times
Square. Her clients included Karen Akers, Jack Gilford, Carlin Glynn and Peter
Masterson, Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion,
Manhattan Theatre Club, the Broadway productions of Crazy For You and State
Fair, as well as various national tours. As a member of the Association of
Theatrical Press Agents and Managers since 1973, she trained a number of the
press agents now handling Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
She did publicity for television and film and represented
individual clients as well, like Karen Ziemba, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Karen Mason, Kathleen
Chalfant and Steve Cuden, all of whom she called friends and endlessly praised.
In fact, I can’t think of anyone who wanted others to succeed more than Susan
Schulman. She used to wait at stage doors, not for autographs, but to tell actors how they had enhanced her
life. That’s a
rare quality in this business.
Always a delightful storyteller, Susan shared memories of
her experiences (both good and bad) in her book, “Backstage Pass to Broadway.”
She tastefully recounted experiences dealing with artists like Lauren Bacall, David
Merrick, Zero Mostel and the thrill of watching Yul Brynner perform. I was
always kidding her that she had met everyone who was anyone in this industry,
and for me, the most exciting of the stars she counted among her friends was
John Cullum. I had fallen head-over-heels with the actor when he was in Shenandoah,
where Susan met him while working the show’s press.
She enjoyed my weak knees and jellied brain any time I
met my favorite star and made sure I had a chance to meet him whenever she
could arrange it. Susan could work any room and made sure that everyone felt
comfortable, had what they needed and that your good side was facing the
camera. And for me, she made sure that I didn’t faint and make a fool of myself
while in John’s company (and I mean she quite literally held me upright on one
occasion all while carrying on a delightful conversation so that no one was the
wiser that I was about to hit the deck). Attending shows with Susan in which
John starred are some of my happiest theater memories.
We enjoyed each other’s company. She was a favorite
plus-one whenever I attended any theater and she returned the favor, inviting
me to many interesting events that she was publicizing or to join her when her
friends were performing. When I wasn’t joining her, I was living vicariously
through her as she did exciting things like attend a gala at the Downtown Abbey
mansion with friend Susan Hampshire or chat with former boyfriend and still
good friend, Henry Winkler.
She was a frequent speaker and panelist. She had a home
up in Connecticut and was a former member of our Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. Here she served on a
panel for us and was always ready to help get the word onjut about any projects that
the chapter, or I personally, had in the works.
We kept in touch via email and Zoom during the pandemic.
Conversations became more serious, especially after she received a life-threatening
diagnosis. It was a thrill when we reunited in person last February for what
was her first re-entry to the theater post Covid: Broadway’s The Music Man.
What a delightful time! She was like a schoolgirl, so delighted to be back at
live theater and so complimentary of the performances of Hugh Jackman and
Sutton Foster, the set design, the costumes, the orchestra – as always, finding
ways to praise and bring attention to every effort.
I recently remembered collaborating on a project together, but we just couldn’t get it off the ground. We laughed as we decided if the two of us couldn’t do it, it couldn’t be done. She was the kind of person who it was fun to be with even in failure. I am glad we spent the time together that we did.
Our last show together was Company. I have a show coming up which I would have invited her to and we would have enjoyed discussing it after. Don’t take your friends for granted. Enjoy them while you can.
Oh, and one more thing you should know about Susan. She
made the best chopped chicken liver according to anyone who ever ate it at any
of her holiday open houses. They were always attended by many from the
industry, all of whom were welcomed with a warm smile from Susan, who was
genuinely glad to see them. She will be missed deeply by many. And by me, for a
very long time.