So long, Sweet Stuart. We’ll try to make you proud.
Stuart Thompson never did my podcast.
I tried, but I could never get the shy giant to speak in front of a microphone. I wish I had pleaded with him a bit more, and told him why I wanted him on so badly . . . which was simply because every time I spent five minutes with him, I learned some new lesson about the industry, as well as something about life as well. And I just wanted the world to hear how he managed to Produce, Manage and support the arts with skill and style. Because it was something we all could learn from.
Sadly, late last week, Stuart, a Six-Time Tony Award-Winner, and one of the best purveyor of plays our industry has ever had, passed away.
Everyone in our business knew Stuart. His reputation for stellar taste and for his stellar treatment of artists made him one of the most respected Producers and General Managers we had. I was lucky enough to work with him when he asked my office to General Manage Cock. I remember getting a check every week and thinking, “I’m getting a master class in Producing here . . . I should be paying him!”
My favorite moments with Stuart were when he would ask questions, or put off a decision, or pick apart a balance sheet like all great Producers and Managers should. Then he’d say, in that Australian accent that put you at ease with each elongated -a, “I’m sure I’m driving you crazy, Ken . . . I’m a terrible client!” And he’d laugh.
And nothing, nothing, ever seemed to get to him. Not a budgetary overrun, or an “interesting” review, or an upset agent. He took it all in stride and just soldiered on, working day in and day out at the art which he obviously loved so much.
I just saw him a month or so ago. And it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t well. But he bounded up to me and a colleague to say hello and smiled so big you’d have thought he just won his 7th Tony Award.
Then he said to my friend, “Is Ken getting you to do his podcast?”
Stuart, I only wished I had worked with you more. You were an inspiration to us all. The industry would be a kinder, gentler place with more Producers like you.
And I promise to try to produce like you did.