George Wentzler: A Great Friend of the Theatre
For most people involved in the theater in South Florida, to be seen at the theatre by George Wentzler was to be seen by the entire world. You see, George always brought his camera to the theatre. If you were in the show or attended the theatre, the chances are that George took your photo.
His pictures would appear in all forms of social media and be shared by actors, directors, designers, choreographers, producers, and theatre supporters of all kinds. Everyone looked forward to seeing George’s photos online. They stimulated enormous interest and were an excellent source for actors and producers. They became a vital part of marketing productions and actors’ careers.
While this was an essential part of George’s massive work, his production shots took center stage. His production shots always caught the actors at their best as he spent endless hours editing and adjusting photos. You could always get the best quality photo from George.
He cared about the quality of his photos, and it showed how beautifully they came across in print and digital media. Many actors, directors, and theatre companies feature George’s photos on their websites, and if you needed an excellent shot to accompany your press release, George was the go-to guy. George’s production shots appeared in the Miami Herald, The Sun-Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, and almost every website that covered theatre in South Florida.
George became a force in video production as well. He shot archival or promotional videos for Broward Stage Door, Island City Stage, Slow Burn Theatre and Empire Stage, Jan McArt’s New Play Reading Series at Lynn University, MNM Productions, and many others. These were not simple one-camera shots. He would usually shoot with three and up to five cameras.
More than likely, you would find Tom Moran, his spouse of 47 years, behind the lens as well. After shooting, George would go home and edit the video, inserting close-ups and alternate angle footage. He was a genius at syncing sound and did his best to make the video and audio look and sound as if a significant production studio did it. He produced high-quality, professional-grade videos that would make anyone proud of their work, and he would do it in an incredibly timely manner.
Quick to keep up with the times, George also filmed many video auditions and sizzle reels for local actors in his home studio. Often, he would do this at a moment’s notice. George would provide wireless microphones, a neutral background, a teleprompter if needed, and Tom would often read the opposing actor’s lines. When shooting finished, George would perform any edits required, save the work in the format of video needed, and even upload the video for the actor. It was not unusual for entire casts to show up at his studio to film promotional videos for their shows.
His video was also featured on a giant LED video wall in the production of Angry Fags, at Island City Stage. In his review of the production, Bill Hirschman wrote, “…all of it realized with the aid of George Wentzler and Mark Demeter’s ever-changing video projections…The savvy integration of this immersive technology represents a cutting-edge turning point for this esteemed company.” George’s talent was a tremendous asset to the South Florida theatre community, and his services were invaluable.
As a technician, George was the resident lighting and sound technician at Manhattan’s St. Regis Hotel venues, including The Maisonette and the Mabel Mercer Room, for five years. He worked with many of the world’s top talents, such as Julie Wilson, Lorna Luft, Mabel Mercer, Mel Torme, Cleo Lane, Lanie Kazan, and his personal favorites, Barbara Cook and Wally Harper.
George spent 34 years working for AT&T as a sales engineer, training instructor, and product presentation manager, but his heart was always in the theatre. Many people don’t know that George had an awe-inspiring career as an actor. He earned his BFA in Theatre from West Virginia University and studied acting at HB Studios, Circle in the Square Theatre School, and The Neighborhood Playhouse.
He started his professional career working with Jean Stapleton at Totem Pole Playhouse (deemed by the New York Times as the “Cadillac of Summer Theatre”) in Pennsylvania. At Totem Pole, George earned his membership into Actor’s Equity Association in productions of Ten Little Indians, Child’s Play, Tobacco Road, and The Man Who Came to Dinner.
He also played significant roles in Send Me No Flowers. You Can’t Take It with You, Hellzapoppin”74 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in summer theatre productions at Shawnee Summer Playhouse in Bloomington, Indiana, and Millbrook Playhouse in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania. He toured in Tadpole Productions children’s theatre productions of Tom Sawyer and The Frog Prince.
However, his most considerable acting credit was when he appeared on Broadway at the Royale Theatre in the original production of Grease in the role of Eugene. Onstage in South Florida, George appeared in Three Card Stud for Ronnie Larson Productions, as Reverend Orton in Angry Fags for Island City Stage, Black Coffee, and A Talent for Murder Delray Beach Playhouse and as Henry in The Fantasticks at Curtain Call Productions.
He was also seen on stage in many staged readings for The Playgroup LLC and at Delray Beach Playhouse. He had a great voice and was a preferred reader of books on tape for the visually impaired for Insight for the Blind and was an on-air newscaster for WPOM radio in Riviera Beach, as well as WLSH in Lansford, PA, WNUS wins West Springfield, MA, and WHRS in Bloomsburg, PA.
On a personal note, I was a Theatre teacher for almost 30 years. In the days before everyone had a personal computer, photo editing, and page layout software, George did. He helped me create beautiful show posters and programs. He took incredible still photos and documented most of my career in educational theatre. He made me look good, and he did the same thing for countless others in the theatre. I couldn’t have done it without him. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine the enormous contributions George made to the theatre. He was a great friend and a great friend of the theatre. His legacy will live on forever.
(Editors Note: George Wentzler passed away only a few short months before the onset of the pandemic on December 7, 2019. He was 70 years old.)