Aaron Frankel
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Aaron Frankel died at the age of 96 on May 12, 2018. A director and acting teacher, he was for many years a fixture on the New York City theatrical scene. He directed over a hundred musical plays, some twenty of them new, in addition to collaborating as a writer both on and off Broadway. He was widely hailed for his teaching skills and taught at ten universities, including Columbia University, New York University and the New School, where he led a musical-theater writing workshop for over thirty years. He also taught acting at HB Studio. He was the author of the well-received Writing the Broadway Musical.

Frankel was born and raised on the Upper West Side and lived from 1946 through his death in the same apartment overlooking the Hudson River at 425 Riverside Drive. He greatly enjoyed a weekly lunch at Sardi's with friends and colleagues. He was deeply devoted to his wife Abetha Aayer, to whom he was married for 48 years and who died in 2002. They had no children. He was a veteran of WWII during which he served with the US Army in Europe as a French-language interpreter.

He is the son of A. Philip Frankel and Estelle Cohen Frankel. He had one brother, Charles Frankel, who predeceased him. He is survived by a niece, Susan Frankel Hunter, a nephew, Carl Frankel, and a great-niece, Emily Hunter Plotkin.

A memorial gathering celebrating Aaron Frankel and his life in the theater will take place later this year.

For updates, or to submit a remembrance, please visit Aaron's tribute page at http://tributes.com/obituary/show/A

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times from Jun. 9 to Jun. 10, 2018.
Memories & Condolences
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37 entries
October 28, 2020
Aaron Frankel was a wonderful teacher. He urged us to observe people always:"it's a f... Zoo!"7
October 12, 2020
Thank you so very much, for your encouragement and guidance, but most of all your patience. Forever in my heart.
David J Mora
May 28, 2019
God bless you, Aaron! You will always be a part of so many, many actors, directors and writers. Your love and wisdom lives in theatres everywhere! Thank you!
Dave j
May 26, 2019
This is just a brief report of Mr. Aaron Frankel ' s memorial on May 12th (Sun. )2019 from 5:30pm at Riverside Tower Hotel. I prepared light Japanese meals and a large bottle of sake (sorry to the attendants who didn't like them)
1. Toasted for Aaron with sake,
2. Voluntary speeches, 3 did.
3. Readings of 3 tributes .
4. Chatting, having refreshments and exchanging informations about his last coaching and his last moments in hospice. Observing his photo from 20 years ago, one in 1966, one in February 2017.
5. Solo singing for Aaron using the melody of Good Night, My Someone'
Over around 7:15pm.
The pictures of this memorial are posted in facebook.
Miyamoto Saho
May 25, 2019
My mentor, foremost my teacher, my friend. Aaron passed away young at the latest possible moment. Witty, insightful and forever just plain right. I can think of no one who inspired me more.
C Edward George
May 19, 2019
For those of you who were unable to attend The Memorial for Aaron on Sunday, May 12 at The Riverside Towers, a group of us from the old HB Studio days have decided to get together this Tuesday, May 21st at Sardi's to celebrate Aaron's legacy and the many gifts he passed on to us all. Please feel free to drop by for drinks at the upstairs bar at 6:00, if you would like to join the dinner to follow please let me know so I can add to the reservation.
Dena Douglass
May 15, 2019
I wish I could have been at Aaron's memorial. He meant so much to me as a teacher, a very special human being, and, ultimately, a friend. Your wisdom and unique insights will guide us and those we guide for generations to come..
Bunny Levine
May 13, 2019
Aaron transformed me as an actor, and gave me to courage to sing, do Shakespeare and be all but literally naked on stage. Just heard of his passing, alas. A great life.
Chris MacLeod
May 11, 2019
I will be out of town for Mothers' day and am so sorry to
miss Aaron's memorial. I had looked forward to being among
his many friends/family to celebrate this lovely man and outstanding teacher. Blessings and greetings to all!
Ginny Etter Sturtevant
May 10, 2019
Aaron Frankel was an inspiration to me, although regrettablly I never met him. I read, underlined and studied his book, Writing the Broadway Musical, the single most informative book on the subject. Once I even called him up to ask a few questions about theatre, and he graciously provided the advice I needed. I will miss this great mentor.
Paul Wolf
April 26, 2019
Yes, I have waited for Aaron Frankel ' s memorial for one year. Now it is to happen on the very day Aaron passed away, May 12th ( Sun. ) from 5:30pm. At Riverside Tower Hotel, ground floor, 80 Riverside Drive(at the corner of Riverside Drive and 80th)

Will you please spread the word to anyone who knows Aaron Frankel?

We will remember and talk about him fondly. We will have live music.
Saho Miyamoto
April 26, 2019
Yes, I have waited for Aaron Frankel ' s memorial for one year. Now it is to happen on the very day Aaron passed away, May 12th ( Sun. ) from 5:30pm. At Riverside Tower Hotel, ground floor, 80 Riverside Drive(at the corner of Riverside Drive and 80th)
RSVP dlewis@riversidetowerhotel.com

Will you please spread the word to anyone who knows Aaron Frankel?

We will remember and talk about him fondly. We will have live music.
Saho Miyamoto
April 16, 2019
I have been waiting to hear about the time and date of a memorial service, which I assumed Aaron's nephew was planning, but I had and have no idea how to reach him. Does anyone know anything about this? I see from the previous message that it will perhaps be the second week of May, but are there more specifics, and how can we find out, please?
Paula Caplan
April 16, 2019
Dear Mr. Frankel, I was an 18 yr. old acting student of yours at HB Studio in 1976-77. You may not remember me, but I do remember you. I moved to NYC and lived in Greenwich Village for 1 year. My classes at HB Studio were amazing, especially yours. I remember my first scene performance for the class which ended with you standing up and saying our performance was amazing. You said a lot more, but I can't recall all of it. I do remember floating home on a cloud of joy, feeling so encouraged to continue acting. You were very encouraging and I thank you for making my young years so magical. It was a very special time for me, and I thank you for your kindness and for being such a memorable force in my life. What an amazing long life you lived. Thank you for giving me encouragement to continue with performing. Just know you are remembered fondly by someone from a long time ago that was greatly effected by your teachings. You were an inspiring teacher. Thank you so much.
joan ballard
April 14, 2019
I am happy to know finally Aaron ' s memorial might be taking place somewhere in Manhattan probably during the second weekend of this May, maybe.
I will fly to attend it from Tokyo.
Saho Miyamoto
January 21, 2019
Constantine Arvanitakis
January 16, 2019
Mary Lou Reid, forever your student
Your holiday card and letter came back to me this year marked "return to sender; unable to forward." And so it was that I learned of your passing yesterday. I was your acting student in the early 1980's. You were always so proud of the correspondence you kept up with your students, past and present. I have been one of those students for over 30 years. What I learned from you, dear mentor and friend, I have carried with me for a lifetime as a speaker, presenter and author. Knowing you are gone leaves a hole in my heart, a sadness in my soul but great thanksgiving for having known you.
Mary Lou Reid
January 13, 2019
Dear Aaron, You influenced me and so many people with your joy, kindness and encouragement. I can never repay you for all that I have learned from you about the theater, but also about life. I will miss you, but I know you have joined Abetha in Heaven. You will be together forever. That was your greatest wish. Love as always..Roseanne
Roseanne Kirk
November 18, 2018
A kind, gracious, and warm-hearted soul, with an infectious, inspiring dedication to creativity and truth. Godspeed, Aaron, dear gentleman.
November 11, 2018

I loved Aaron, too. On our last visits, even when his memory seemed to be failing, he greeted us with that same broad smile and eyes twinkling like a kid in a candy store.
He was a beautiful story-teller, with such an interesting life (ferrying the Lunts around during WW II, leading to his own successful career in the theater). And yet he always took pleasure in learning about the lives around him. He was no diva, though he deserved to be one.
It was a pleasure knowing him and getting to visit with him. Thank you, Aaron. With love.
Nick Macdonald
November 11, 2018
AaronFrankel was beyond marvelous. I feel Ive lost a member of my family. I remember Aaron from the 1950s, when I was 12 years old. He would come to dinners at my mother and stepfathers apartment in Peter Cooper Village. Aaron would call me princess and make me feel like a million dollars. Even 10-15 years ago when we met on upper Broadway at an outdoor place -- Nick, my husband,was there before me. They were waiting outside. AsI approached, "Ah, for you, a red carpet!" I'm sure he said it to many. But it felt personal, loving, special.
Aaron told us that during WWII,when he was in the USArmy, in intelligence, it was my stepfather, Benjamin H. Brown, whoconvinced him follow his passion and go into the theater. Ben had been at Columbia U. with Aarons brother Charlie.
Nick and I saw Aaron a few times in his apartment at 425RSD -- the apartment exactly above where my maternal grandmother lived for decades.
Dear, warm, kindly, original, modest Aaron. I miss him so much. His voice. His humor. His gallantry. How I wish I'd told him so on one of those visits to himwith his much-loved pastrami sandwiches. Wish Id thankedhim for always being so welcoming. Love to Aaron and Abetha, wherever you are. Im so fortunate our paths crossed.
Elspeth Macdonald
October 8, 2018
I attended Aaron's class at HB Studios back in 1983. He was a wonderful teacher filled with kindness and great insights. You could always go to Aaron with questions and he would give you the best advice and guide you with truthfulness. In life one can only hope for great teachers. Thank you Aaron for being one of those.
Peter Sullivan
September 30, 2018
Met Aaron at the U. Of Washington when he was a visiting Drama professor, late 1960's. He impressed us with his knowledge, professionalism and attention; he learned our names and listened to us and taught us well. I, and other kids, moved to New York in the 70's and we remained in touch and shared many wonderful lunches and conversations. We respected him and loved him.
Such a gentleman, a caring and encouraging, outstanding teacher and friend. Please post memorial information, when available.
Ginny Etter Sturtevant
August 22, 2018
For Dearest Aaron, Beloved teacher and friend, with so many thanks for inspiration, humor and intellect, calm strength and encouragement, boundless theatrical/human knowledge & your wonderful handwritten notes -- so much more than words can say. You are deeply missed.
Vicky Devany
August 22, 2018
Aaron was a kind and loving teacher, who dignified his students by paying attention to our efforts and sharing enthusiasm for our dreams. I loved him dearly. I was privileged to have studied with him at HB Studio in the 70s with some wonderful, gifted people.
Margaret Owens Dunham
July 31, 2018
Aaron may be the biggest influence on my making a go of theatre professionally. He was one of the warmest, most passionate, open, practical, knowledgeable and honest teachers I ever had.
Aaron took all the magic of theatre and made it real, doable, yet always still magical.
He was a vital part of my growing as an actor. He was a great mentor and will be sorely missed.
Gary Telles
July 25, 2018
My teacher, my mentor, my friend. He brought sparkle and light wherever he went. He always made time for my family and me whenever we were in NYC. He read every play I sent him and then would call me and we would have lengthy phone calls on how to make them better (sometimes he marked them up!). He was my first dramaturg. I just loved him and will always be grateful he was part of my life. Rest In Peace dear friend.
Claudia Inglis Haas
July 25, 2018

Half a century ago my parents accidentally took me to the film Westside Story' which had made me insane enough to travel to NYC. with a student visa from HB where I met Aaron.
Today me back in Tokyo as a choreographer , director, a vocal coach and no matter what I am I always find Aaron speak through me. Even as a dancer its him who's on stage. I always died during his lessons when he said you are a dancer' because he believed a dancer can NOT act
On my studio door a big sign Action! Action! Action!
I organized Japanese performer's study tour to NYC. 49 times fr.1985 to 2015. Each time he had special classes for them, even when he had to lower his level. His musical classmate invite them to her home many times with such hospitality. Now a few of them live in the city.
In 2017, I visited and he worked with me and said You are too careful. ' but didn't say You are a dancer. '
Saho Miyamoto
July 2, 2018
Throughout my time in NYC this man's wisdom and guidance inspired and led me. He taught me much and shared his enthusiasm with endless wit and grace. I still carry these fond memories with me.
Jaqueline Rice
June 30, 2018
A young Broadway chorine learned to love Shakespeare and find her inner actor. Never forget you, Aaron, or my remarkable classmates!
Meg Bussert
June 30, 2018
Aaron. Teacher, gentleman, nurturer, gentle soul. One of the great teachers! So many wonderful memories. Stocks in the ascot industries took a dive today! Peace to you, Aaron, my love.
Sam Behrens
June 29, 2018
I use your teaching guidance all the time in my classes. An amazing legacy to leave the theatre.... we all stand on the shoulders of giants. You are one of those giants. In my heart forever
Penelope Morgan-Lohr
June 29, 2018
My teacher and my creative acting touchstone! He taught me to be brave, and to use my mind as well as my heart in the pursuit of bringing a human being to life within me. His encouragement to that end will be with me forever!
Wendy Merritt
June 27, 2018
Aaron was my mentor, teacher, friend and my father of theater. He was singularly the most influential person of my creative life. I use his teachings to this day and will always keep him in my heart and art. Hail to thee...
Michael Schiralli
June 27, 2018
My dear mentor and friend. How much I learned from you! I will always carry you in my heart.
Mary Saunders-Barton
June 27, 2018
I loved Aaron dearly and admired his tremendous intelligence, warmth, compassion, encouragement, and optimism. He meant so much to so many. I shall miss him. If anyone reading this can tell me when the memorial will be, please contact me at paulajcaplan.net
Paula Caplan
June 26, 2018
My. mentor, my cheerleader, my dear friend! A life to be so proud of, I will miss you.
Alix Korey
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