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Robert C. Schnitzer

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SCHNITZER Robert C. Schnitzer, a former actor, producer, educator and theater administrator died January 2, 2008 in Stamford, at the age of 101. He was a former long time resident of Weston, Connecticut. Born in New York City on September 8, 1906, he was educated at the Horace Mann School and Columbia University (A.B. '27). He was Chairman of the Board of the Westport, Connecticut Arts Center upon its inception, after a lifetime of administering notable arts projects and serving on the drama faculties of five colleges and universities. He began his career with the Walter Hampden Company and spent 10 winter seasons based at Hampden's Theatre on Broadway. New York winter seasons were preceded and followed by nationwide tours and included such classic productions as "Cyrano de Bergerac". After acting on Broadway, he stage-managed, then company-managed a roster of productions. He also owned and directed his own Summer Stock Theatre Company. In 1935, he was recruited for administration in the WPA Federal Theatre Program and left acting and stage management permanently. His assignments were successively State Director for Delaware, Assistant to National Director Hallie Flanagan, and builder/director of the Federal Theatre at the San Francisco World's Fair. During World War II, Mr. Schnitzer volunteered with the International Red Cross and served for three years in Kunming, China as a procurement officer for the Red Cross. He was a member of the China, Burma and India Theater of Operations Veterans Association. After World War II, he managed the first foreign tour of American Ballet Theatre and of the American attractions of leading artists and ensembles at the Berlin, Paris, Denmark, Athens and Edinburgh Festivals and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. He was General Manager for prominent Broadway producers Lawrence Langner, Cheryl Crawford, Gilbert Miller and Guthrie McClintic, for Martha Graham and for the New School's Theatre Division. From 1954 to 1960 Mr. Schnitzer established and administered the American National Theater Academy - State Department International Cultural Exchange Program, sending tours of 3,500 major American artists to 105 nations. The roster included such stellar attractions as New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Isaac Stern, Rudolf Serkin, Marion Anderson, George Szell, Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, Jose Limon, Martha Graham, Benny Goodman, Agnes De Mille, Jerome Robbins, "My Fair Lady", "Oklahoma", "Long Day's Journey", "Skin of our Teeth", and Helen Hayes in the Theatre Guild tour of Europe, the Near East and Latin America. In 1961 he was invited by the President of the University of Michigan to establish a pioneering project in the academic sponsorship of a professional theatre program which developed into a major regional theatre center and sent many productions to New York in affiliation with the APA and the Phoenix Theatre. From 1969-75, he was a founder and Executive Director of the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA), then retired as Emeritus Professor. Professor Schnitzer, who had also served on the Smith and Vassar College and Columbia University drama faculties, had been a member of Actors Equity Association, ATPAM, the National Theatre Conference, International Theatre Institute, the Players Club and the Century Association. He was the recipient of the Career Service Award from Arts Management Magazine and the Business Committee on the Arts; received a Special Presidential Citation from the University of Michigan; was a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre; a member of the Fulbright Selection Committee; recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship; a Delegate to the U.S. Conference for UNESCO; a member of the Michigan Council for the Arts and was named in Who's Who in America (since 1960); Who's Who of the American Theatre; and Who's Who in Entertainment. He was married to producer/director Marcella Cisney until her death in 1989 and was the son of Louis and Clara (Billiani) Schnitzer. After retiring from the University of Michigan, he resided in Weston, CT from 1976 through 1999 and most recently was a resident of the Edgehill Retirement community in Stamford, Connecticut. He is survived by a nephew, Jonathan Abels of West Hartford, CT, a niece, Robin Abels of Carrollton, Texas and his paternal cousins, Robert Jay Schnitzer of Jacksonville, Florida, and Judith Myers of Houston, Texas. Prior to his death, Mr. Schnitzer donated papers and records from his service as National Deputy Director of the WPA Federal Theater Project to the Robert C. Schnitzer Collection at George Mason University. Other papers and records from his life in the theater are preserved and maintained as the Robert Schnitzer Collection as part of the New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theater Division. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to The Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue, Westport, Connecticut 06880 or The Actors Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York 10019. A memorial gathering to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mr. Schnitzer will take place in Westport, Connecticut at a date and place to be announced. The Harding Funeral Home, 210 Post Road East, Westport, is in charge of arrangements.
Published in Connecticut Post on Jan. 15, 2008
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