Donald Trump may be the only major-party presidential candidate in history with a Broadway producing credit, but that hasn’t won him much support in theater circles.
“All he was was a big investor,” said Richard Seff, who wrote the 1970 comedy Paris is Out!, about a longtime married couple planning a European vacation that played 112 performances at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. “He didn’t have any input,” Seff said about Trump’s role. Now an 89-year-old reviewer and columnist for the website DC Metro Theater Arts, Seff recalled the second-generation real estate developer as a pleasant, stage-struck 23-year-old.
While the race has tightened two months before the Nov. 8 election, arts leaders and unions have coalesced behind Hillary Clinton. Actors’ Equity Association endorsed her last month, its first in a presidential contest since it was founded in 1913. It cited its members’ interest in gun control, gay rights and arts education, among other issues. In January, Clinton got the nod from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents stagehands.
Tonight, local cultural executives will congregate on a Chelsea rooftop for the NYC Arts for Hillary Fundraiser. The host committee includes Victoria Bailey, executive director of the Theatre Development Fund, and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theatre. “Donald Trump has proven to be a scary candidate for president, at least for me,” said Thomas Cott, senior director of marketing and creative content at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who’s also on the committee. Cott called Trump, who lacks government experience, unqualified. (Cott emphasized that committee members represent themselves, not their employers.)
Tomorrow night, Broadway star Laura Benanti headlines a Clinton fundraiser at Industry, a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen. “This election just feels dire to me and I have not been able to contain my fear of Donald Trump being the president of the United States,” Benanti said in an interview. The Tony Award-winning soprano, who did an impression that went viral of Melania Trump on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, said she will revive her Melania at the Sept. 20 event.
The extended Broadway community isn’t entirely blue, however. Trump’s economic advisors include Steven Roth, chairman and chief executive of Vornado Realty Trust, who is the father of Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theatres, and the husband of producer Daryl Roth.
Seff said he’s undecided about the election. But the self-effacing writer, who’s also been a talent agent and actor, added that his life’s been focused on theater. “I don’t know a great deal about anything else.”