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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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July 2019

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
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Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
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Cost: Free

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Wheeler Ferris Wheel
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

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Crossings Community Church - OKC Campus
14600 North Portland Avenue
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Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405-302-1209
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
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701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
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Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris Wheel, and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma...

Cost: Adults $20; Seniors and Children $15

Where:
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701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
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Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
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View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
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Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
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Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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1 Park Ave
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
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More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris Wheel, and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma...

Cost: Adults $20; Seniors and Children $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

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