Daryl Roth—For the Love of Theatre

For all of Daryl Roth’s talents and accomplishments, what you most take away from a meeting with her is a sense of the respect and affection she has for the great creative minds of our times and times past. And although she’s best known as a theatre producer, her own breadth of work, as well as the admiration she shows for the creative accomplishments of others, seems to extend far beyond the world of theatre to include the written word, film and television, dogs, grandchildren—the list goes on.

darylDaryl Roth came to the theatre later in her life after a successful career as an interior designer. “I started as an enthusiastic audience member from the time I was a young girl,” she explains. “My parents loved musical theatre so they would bring us— my sister and me—as young kids into New York City to see a show, have lunch, and it just became part of my life. I loved it and I continued going to the theatre all through my life.”

Daryl loved the theatre but never had a desire to be on-stage. “I didn’t even figure out a way that I might fit into the world of theatre until later in my life,” she says. “It was out of a love of theatre and of a way to try to find myself a wonderful career that would be fulfilling for me—I just felt somehow driven to find a way to have a life in the theatre.”

At the time Daryl was pondering a career change, she was living in New Jersey where she had raised her two children, a son and a daughter. “I’m very happy to have raised my children in New Jersey,” she says, “Because we had the best of both worlds. But, I was a grown lady and finally said to myself, ‘What would you like to do more than anything else?’ I’ve been doing this now for almost 23 years.”

In those 23 years (and counting), Daryl Roth has produced some of the greatest talent and some of the greatest works including six Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, Proof by David Auburn, Wit by Margaret Edson, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, Three Tall Women by Edward Albee and Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz. She also produced the legendary Bea Arthur in her final Broadway engagement in Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends in 2002. Today, she is the producer of A Little Night Music starring Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Fela!, The Temperamentals and Love Loss and What I Wore written by Nora Ephron—one of the most influential female writers of the day—with her sister, Delia Ephron. “There’s nothing like New York theatre,” she says. “And by theatre, I don’t mean just Broadway, I mean the greater landscape of off-Broadway.”

In 1996, Daryl Roth converted the Union Square Savings Bank on 15th Street into a multi-use theatre, which currently houses two performance spaces. The original idea was to create a single 399-seat theatre but when Daryl realized the potential the space had with its high ceilings and raw, unobstructed space, she took a different approach. The Daryl Roth Theatre once housed the long-running hit De La Guarda but has also been home to everything else from musical concerts and award-winning plays in various seating configurations to the current production, Fuerzabruta. Since 2002, a smaller, more intimate 99-seat performance space, called the DR2, was added where new works are introduced to the public in a warmer and safer environment. Zero Hour, the critically acclaimed play about Zero Mostel’s life, begins performances in the DR2 this month.

“Truthfully, I adore off-Broadway because new writers are discovered and some interesting, edgier plays are produced,” she says. “I can’t wait to get into the next project. I’ll do anything for a show,” she admits. “I’ve been known to insert flyers into newspapers waiting to be picked up on doorsteps while I’m out walking my dogs in the morning. I love doing what I do in a way that’s not a job for me—I feel compelled to do it.”

On January 13, Daryl was the recipient of a Sardi’s portrait for her extensive achievements in theatre. The event was hosted by Daryl’s son, producer Jordan Roth (on right in photo above) and actors Charles Busch (left) and David Hyde Pierce, with an audience of friends and colleagues that included Kathleen Turner and Michele Lee (in photo at top), Judith Light, Bob Balaban, David Pittu and many, many other friends and admirers of Daryl’s work.

In 2001, Daryl put her hand to the screen as an executive producer for the highly successful HBO Film, Dinner with Friends, starring Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette. The film was nominated for two Primetime Emmys. This year, Daryl completed a documentary entitled My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story in which she recruited 14 of her friends (celebrities and notable people) who share her love of dogs. They agreed to be filmed with their pets either in their homes or in their dog parks for a discussion on what the human/animal bond has meant to each. The documentary features Edie Falco, Richard Gere, Glenn Close, Didi Conn and 10 others and will premiere with the ASPCA in May 2010. Daryl owns two Lowchens named Leo and Lucy.

In all of Daryl’s combined work, there’s an exceptional quality to what she chooses to produce. “I really care about the projects I choose,” she says. “I have a fearless tenacity about what I produce and I’m a hard-working producer.” Daryl says she’s attracted to stories that show people overcoming odds or who are in a position of not being believed in by others. And recently, she produced Dear Edwina, a children’s musical in the DR2, that is, in Daryl’s words “a Dear Abby for kids.” Now that she has grandchildren, she has a particular interest in producing good quality children’s programming. “The sooner you get them in, the sooner they grow up loving the theatre. It’s about creating new audiences, ” she says. “Plus, it’s become a family affair for me. My son has loved theatre from an early age and now makes his career as a producer and the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, my daughter enjoys my taking her children to theatre and my husband has also come into the fold. He feels that his life has been greatly enriched by meeting people he never would have, otherwise. It has made me feel very fulfilled.”

Woman Around Town’s Six Questions

Favorite Place to Eat: Circo
Favorite Place to Shop: Bloomingdale’s
Favorite New York Sight: Central Park
Favorite New York Moment: Opening Night!
What You Love About New York: The energy!
What You Hate About New York: The garbage

Photo of Daryl Roth with friends at Sardi’s by Jenny Anderson.

About Carol Toscano (7 Articles)
Native New Yorker and lover of all things New York, Carol Toscano is fiction and entertainment writer. She holds a BS in Journalism from St. John's University and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University. Carol's work on the award-winning Woman Around Town website includes celebrity profiles, art, book and theatre reviews and travel and lifestyle pieces. Carol is a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Reverend Mychal Judge Heart of New York Journalism Award (for work that is most complementary of New York City) from the New York Press Club.