Literature to Life

Every Great Story has a Beginning



Wynn Handman and The American Place Theatre

Literature to Life is a legacy of the award-winning American Place Theatre, co-founded by veteran director, acting teacher and producer Wynn Handman.

The American Place Theatre was founded in 1962 by Handman, with Sidney Lanier and Michael Tolan at St. Clement's Church in New York City. It developed a reputation for fostering new works including adaptations of outstanding writers from other literary forms including Robert Lowell, Joyce Carol Oates, Ed Bullins and Sylvia Plath.

The American Place Theatre nurtured and initially produced works by cutting edge American playwrights including Sam Shepard, Maria Irene Fornes, Emily Mann, Richard Nelson and Ronald Ribman. The theatre also, helped start the careers of unconventional, contemporary actor/writers such as Eric Bogosian, Bill Irwin, John Leguizamo and Aasif Mandvi.

Handman has been a celebrated acting teacher for over sixty years. He has taught at least 11 Academy Award Winners and has served as a teacher and mentor for such luminaries as: Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Michael Douglas, Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, Mira Sorvino, Mia Farrow and The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi. In fact, Mandvi started as the original performer of "The Kite Runner."

Bringing Literature to Life

In the early 90s, one of Handman's students started bringing in excerpts from "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison to work on in class. As the student and Handman began to develop these excerpts, they realized that there was the potential to create a full production that could be especially of interest for youth audiences.

From there, Handman, along with members of his artistic circle and his acting company, took this as the inspiration to create adaptations of more titles. They began to develop them for performances in schools and other venues across New York City. As the reputation of the performances grew, more authors gave their permission for their work to be presented on stage through Literature to Life.

From 2012 to 2018, Handman decided to merge the program with Young Audiences New York, an organization that shared his passion for these works. Throughout its legacy, Handman and members of his artistic circle including Billy Lyons and Elise Thoron continue to be active with Literature to Life. They work to ensure the quality of each performance, as well as the pre-show and post-show discussions led by the teaching artists and actors. Many of the original actors and teaching artists from Literature to Life continue to perform and instruct in New York City and across the nation.



Lois Lowry

"There is so much noise in the entertainment world today, but where is the mind? We are not going for noise, we are going for the core. We do things that stay with youth, that get to them in a deep way. After seeing Literature to Life, I want to hear them say 'I don't want to see the movie.' That's how I know we have really gotten to them in a deep way."

- Wynn Handman



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