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Max Weitzenhoffer: Star Behind the Scenes

The OU theatre titan talks about his journey to success



 



Oklahomans should be familiar with the name Weitzenhoffer – especially Norman visitors, as it’s sprinkled liberally around the University of Oklahoma campus. There’s the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, the A. Max Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre, the actual venue called the Weitzenhoffer Theatre and the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. There’s a lot of personality and passion behind the name, plus a lot of love and loyalty to the theater and to the university. It’s all packed in the person of Max Weitzenhoffer, a silver-haired sophisticate whose roots go deep into the Oklahoma red dirt.
 

His grandfather, Berty Weitzenhoffer, was an Austrian immigrant who settled in Lexington, Oklahoma Territory, in 1885. The Weitzenhoffers have been here ever since. Young Max grew up in Oklahoma City, attending Edgemere and Nichols Hills Elementary Schools and Casady before enrolling at OU.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to major in,” he says. “In those days everybody enrolled in the Field House. All the professors were sitting around in their tweed jackets with signs that said ‘English Department,’ et cetera. I looked over and saw this professor in an orange and black Hawaiian shirt. There was a sign that said ‘Drama’ and I thought, ‘Aha! This looks like the best place to go.’ And that’s how I got in the Drama department.”

Weitzenhoffer’s attraction to the stage began when he was eight as the family spent summers in La Jolla, California. Theater-lovers, the family were regular patrons at the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse and he would hang around backstage, fascinated. Every summer, he worked at La Jolla, and by the time he graduated from OU, he was the company manager. He also found time for acting lessons.

“My teacher told me I was always going to be the hero’s best friend. And I decided that wasn’t for me,” he says.

Bypassing opportunities in Hollywood, Weitzenhoffer’s next stop was New York, where he found friends and mentors like producer Morty Gottlieb and actor Alfred Drake. Bernie Jacobs, president of the Shubert Organization, taught him about running theaters.

“He taught me about relationships. He knew every member of his organization and knew about their families. That was extremely important,” he says. “In our theaters (Nimax), we have 200 employees. You’re totally dependent on the people who work for you. It has to be a family, not just a corporate structure.”



If a show has quality, you’ll find an audience.

Max Weitzenhoffer
 


After 30 years in New York, numerous Tony nominations and two Tony awards – for “Dracula” (1977) and “The Will Rogers Follies “(1991), Weitzenhoffer began concentrating more of his efforts in London. He and his partner in Nimax Theatres, Nica Burns, own six of the most important theaters in the English capital.

“They (the English) like the spoken word and musicals,” he says. “If a show has quality, you’ll find an audience.”

During a visit to Oklahoma in 1994, he came up with the idea of establishing a musical theater program at OU. He and Greg Kunish, the head of the Drama School, set up offices in Carpenter Hall. They had no faculty and no students.

“We just went around campus grabbing people,” he says.

For a premier project, Weitzenhoffer brought in actor John Cullum and a Broadway director to present “Jack,” a musical about John F. Kennedy. Students filled in the other roles and did the technical work. This brought wide recognition to the program, which today has become one of the country’s leading musical theater schools.

Since moving back home to Oklahoma in the ‘90s, he’s invested heavily in OU’s arts emphasis. But he’s modest about his long list of accomplishments.

“I’ve had a career being able to do what I wanted to do. I’ve employed a lot of people. And I’ve done a lot of things that a lot of people have gotten pleasure out of. And,” he says, “a lot of it was luck.”

 

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Calendar

July 2018

Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
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Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
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Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

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Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
View map »


Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
View map »


Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

Join us in celebrating Brown Estate Wine and their first time in Oklahoma! MMR Prime Steakhouse is excited to offer Brown, Napa Valley wines with delicious pairings prepared by our Chef, Jonas...

Cost: $79 per person, plus tax and gratuity

Where:
MMR Prime Steakhouse
2920 NW 63rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Telephone: 405-608-8866
Contact Name: Dan Hayes
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
View map »


Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

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Join us every Thursday this summer for morning yoga practice while enjoying the beautiful sunrise over Will Rogers Gardens. This class is designed for all skill levels, so grab your...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Will Rogers Gardens
3400 NW 36th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73112
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 405.297.2279
Contact Name: Becca Leon
Website »

More information

Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
View map »


Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Science and the Bible dramatically converge to reveal ancient Jerusalem’s most famous king-prophet pairing. In this interactive, multimedia exhibit, visitors discover the illuminating history...

Cost: Free

Where:
Armstrong Auditorium
Herbert W. Armstrong College
14400 S Bryant Ave
Edmond, OK  73034-8174
View map »


Sponsor: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
Telephone: 405-285-1010
Contact Name: Shane Granger
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

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Cost: $20 suggested donation

Where:
DC on Film Row
609 W Sheridan Ave
OKC, OK  73102
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Sponsor: The Dragonfly Home
Telephone: 405.212.3378
Contact Name: Melissa Eick
Website »

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

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Bring the family and join in on the fun for the 26th Annual Youth National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show. There will be great horse show classes, kids' activities,...

Cost: Free

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3001 General Pershing Blvd
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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303.696.4500
Contact Name: Mikayla Boge
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

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701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12-$20

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The Paramount Room
701 W Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
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