“ART AND HEART: The World of Isaiah Sheffer”— A Celebration

“ART AND HEART: The World of Isaiah Sheffer”

A Celebration

Amos Lassen

Isaiah Sheffer was a much-loved cultural figure in New York City for decades and made an indelible mark on the city he called home. Director Catherine Tambini shares his story in hr documentary and she does so with style. She celebrates Sheffer’s life and impact through archival material, interviews with friends and colleagues, and stage performances. We are taken into the life of the man whom many knew only as the host of Selected Shorts on public radio and or as the driving force and artistic director of Symphony Space, the originator of Bloomsday on Broadway and the comic genius behind the Thalia Follies. Sheffer was an actor, director, musical librettist and lyricist, and a cultural entrepreneur. He was a husband, a father, and a mentor to many.

Although he had a successful as an actor, playwright and director, it wasn’t until he and his artistic partner Allan Miller organized a 1978 marathon Bach concert at an abandoned Upper West Side movie theater that Sheffer really made a name for himself. The two men embarked on a years-long project to gain the funds to restore the venue that caused them to become involved a lawsuit that took 11 years to settle.

Symphony Space was eventually refurbished into a two-theater complex that included the old Thalia movie theater that was rechristened the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in recognition of the actor’s significant financial support.

We see and hear vintage interviews with Sheffer as he speaks about the creation of his signature projects some of which were those already mentioned and an annual marathon reading of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. By listening, we understand that here was a man that has a wonderful personality and charm.

Sheffer died in 2012 at the age of 76 and left behind w wonderful legacy. He certainly left his mark on the city he loved. We hear from quite a list of celebrities including Morgan Freeman, Stephen Colbert, Leonard Nimoy, Jane Curtin, Fionnula Flanagan, Stephen Lang and Fritz Weaver and from his family members, Ethel Sheffer, and Susannah Sheffer.

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