About Aaron Frankel
the Newsletter of The Actor's Fund.
Donor Profile: Aaron Frankel
Aaron Frankel is a rare commodity. Unlike many entertainment professionals in New York, he is actually a native New Yorker. Aaron is known by almost everyone in the business, and those who don't know him personally are well aware of his many accomplishments.
Aaron was born in Washington Heights, where the base of the George Washington Bridge now stands. After graduating from Columbia College with a Phi Beta Kappa key and a degree in philosophy (a degree he jokingly says his wife Abetha would later cure him of), Aaron entered the Army during World War II. He was offered one of two jobs, either in the Economic Office of the Occupation Forces or solider shows with Josh Logan. He chose soldier shows and began working as a stage manager.
After the war, Aaron continued working as a stage manager for such icons as the Lunts, Garson Kanin, Harold Clurman and Louis Jouvet. When he began directing, noted teacher and friend Sanford Meisner sent one of this students to him to audition for BERNADINE. That student was Abetha Aayer. She didn't get the part, but six months later she married Aaron. Abetha's career spanned five decades. She starred in 100 national, regional and USO productions. Some other notable stage performances included GREASE, HAMLET, MEDEA, BORN YESTERDAY and THE WAY OF THE WORLD. She also appeared in numerous TV commercials and soaps. Aaron credits his wife as the financial whiz in the family. They were married for 48 years, until Abetha's death in May, 2002.
Aaron Frankel directed over 100 plays and musicals both on- and off-Broadway and in summer stock and university theatre. He has worked with such stars as Zero Mostel, Walter Matthau, Robert Redford, Mae West and Buddy Hackett. He is a Fulbright Scholar in French theatre. Aaron is an internationally-known theatre teacher, having taught at 10 universities, including Carnegie-Mellon, Washington, Iowa, Boston and in New York at Columbia, HB Studio and The New School. He is the author of the industry staple, "Writing the Broadway Musical." Aaron has also served as Chairman and President of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation and 1st Vice President of The Players.
According to Aaron, the most fulfilling part of his life, other than his marriage, has been the professional encouragement of his students, many of whom have happily developed into dear friends. Among Aaron's accomplishments is his philanthropic support of the entertainment community. His recent gift annuity to The Actors' Fund will help many of his colleagues in the future. Aaron says, "Giving is giving back. Thank heaven for the Actors' Fund!"
From Executive Director Mart Hulswit's Report to the Annual Meeting, June 16, 2005, of the Episcopal Actors' Guild of America: I thank and congratulate Council member Aaron Frankel, so recently a widower, who has filled the void of his Abetha's absence by spreading her love in so many generous ways towards the best he found in the world around him, and has done so, I am convinced, as an act of worship.