In Memoriam: 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. Here she served on a panel for us and was always ready to
help get the word out 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.

Share this post:

Comments on "In Memoriam: Susan L. Schulman"

Comments 0-5 of 1

Alexa Kelly - Friday, November 04, 2022

We at Pulse Ensemble Theatre are so very saddened to hear this news about Susan. Susan worked with us for many years, it was under Susan that we got our several New York Times reviews. Susan was always kind, generous and most supportive. No matter how tiny our budget sometimes was, she treated us respectfully and with dignity, as if she cared about us and our work. I agree totally about her chopped liver! And remember fondly helping her clean up after her parties, and being sent home with bags of food! She was a great lover of theatre. She was warm, caring, and one of a kind. We are so grateful to have worked with her and known her as a colleague and friend. She is sorely missed. Rest in peace and joy Susan, you made the world a better place. Thank you.

Please login to comment