A lifelong New Yorker, Wynn is the Artistic Director of the American Place Theater, which he Co-Founded with Sidney Lanier and Michael Tolan in 1962. His role in the theatre has been to seek out, encourage, train, and present new and exciting writing and acting talent and to develop and produce new plays by living American writers. Handman has been instrumental in bringing to the stage the early work of many of America's finest playwrights, actors, directors and designers. In addition, he initiated, in 1994, a nationally recognized Arts Education Program, Literature to Life (now a program of Young Audiences NY), which through a unique combination of interactive theater, literature and education brings books to life, inspiring young people to to find their own voice.
The American place theater
Co-Founded in 1962, The American Place Theatre was a revolutionary force in contemporary American theatre, producing new American writers at a time when very few had the courage to do so. It was recognized in a Ford Foundation grant and thus became a major force in the fledgling Off and Off-Off Broadway movements.
The American Place Theatre recognized the talent, developed and incubated new works, and produced the first full length plays of major playwrights including Sam Shepard, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Maria Irene Fornes, Ronald Ribman, Ed Bullins, Tom Strelich and countless others. It provided an early platform for minority voices, including many African American and Asian American playwrights who had their first professional productions on the American Place stage. The American Place Theatre also initiated The Women's Project (created by Julia Miles in 1978) to encourage, develop and produce women playwrights and directors.
Wynn brought major American Humorists to the stage including Jules Feiffer, Cynthia Heimel, Roger Rosenblatt and Calvin Trillin among others, and also developed and produced, to great acclaim, the early one-person productions of John Leguizamo, Eric Bogosian, Bill Irwin, John Hockenberry and Dael Orlandersmith.
The curtain came down on The American Place Theatre in 2002, but the theatre's legacy continues to this day with Literature to Life, the educational program founded by Wynn in 1994 to bless future generations with the beauty and sometimes even the majesty of human voice and the spoken word.
At the end of WWII, and with support from the GI Bill, Wynn studied at The Neighborhood Playhouse under the tutelage of Sanford Meisner who immediately recognized Wynn's gift for working with actors and, within two weeks, began having Wynn assist other students, eventually becoming one of Meisner's only assistants. After five years of teaching and directing at The Neighborhood Playhouse, Handman launched his own professional acting studio and became a freelance director of Off-Broadway and touring productions.
Wynn's studio continues to flourish and is now in its 65th year. It has nurtured thousands of aspiring and established actors, whose performances have graced stage and screen throughout the globe, including 12 Academy Award recipients and numerous Tony and OBIE award winners. His many distinguished students include:
Michael Douglas, Richard Gere, Frank Langella, Denzel Washington, Mia Farrow, Phyllis Newman, Joanne Woodward, Joel Grey, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Anna Deveare Smith, Alec Baldwin, Raul Julia, Red Buttons, Orson Bean, Margot Kidder, Mira Sorvino, Christopher Walken, Susan Lucci, Lauren Graham, Connie Britton, Chris Cooper, Marianne Leone, Sandy Duncan, Tony Roberts, Aasif Mandvi, John Leguizamo, Debra Jo Rupp, Mercedes Ruehl, Rita Rudner, Kathleen Chalfant, Cliff Gorman, Kim Raver, Adrianne Lenox, Allyce Beasley, Brad Davis, Frank Gifford, Brad Beyer, Arija Barakis, and Shiri Appleby among many others.