Alan Eisenberg, the longest-serving executive director in the history of the Actors’ Equity Association, has died. Mr. Eisenberg was 88.
Raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Mr. Eisenberg attended the University of Michigan, where he studied English while writing a sports column for the Michigan Daily. Following additional schooling at New York University Law School, Mr. Eisenberg practiced law by day while working as a night espresso operator at the Café Figaro in the center of the 1960's New York counter cultural movement.
He segued into labor law, telling the American Jewish Committee at the New York Public Library that “if I was going to be a lawyer, I decided I was going to be a labor lawyer because it had an inherent drama to it, like literature.” Beginning in 1981, Mr. Eisenberg combined his union passion with his love of the arts, guiding the actors' union through tremendous growth in membership and several firestorms, including the 1990 Miss Saigon controversy, the uncertain times for the industry following September 11, 2001, and the challenges of increased non-union touring.
When Mr. Eisenberg retired from the union in 2005, membership in Actors' Equity had increased from 28,678 to 46,000, earnings for stage managers and actors jumped from $118.6 million to $250.3 million, and Equity investments increased in value from $1.7 million to more than $22 million. Alongside Equity President Patrick Quinn, Mr. Eisenberg created the Experimental Touring Program in the Production Contract, creating opportunities for a greater variety of work to reach audiences across the country.
Beyond Equity, Mr. Eisenberg served as vice president of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Theatre Authority, and as a board member for the Actors' Equity Foundation, the Actors Fund of America (now known as the Entertainment Community Fund), the Actors Work Program, Career Transition for Dancers, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and the Non-Traditional Casting Project. He also served as chair of the Broadway Alliance, as a member of the Tony Awards Administration Committee, and as a vice president of the Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO.
Mr. Eisenberg is survived by his wife, Claire Copley, and his daughters, Mollie Copley Eisenberg and Emma Copley Eisenberg.