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Jeffry Melnick, an agent and manager who represented the likes of Sam Shepard, John Patrick Shanley, James Duff and Charles Busch, died Oct. 24 in Palm Springs after a short illness, a publicist announced.
Melnick specialized in promoting New York playwrights inside the television and film industry through his company, Eighth Square Entertainment.
He assisted Shepard on his Broadway plays True West and Buried Child; helped Shanley on the way to the screenwriter’s Oscar victory for Moonstruck (1987); and partnered with CAA on two TNT crime shows created by Duff, The Closer and its spinoff, Major Crimes.
Melnick also repped Busch on Die, Mommie Die, the writer-actor’s 2007 off-Broadway play and 2003 film adaptation, and he was pursuing a film version of Busch’s 2000-02 Broadway hit, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, at the time of his death.
In 2017, he endowed the Jeffry Melnick New Playwright Award at New York City’s Primary Stages. “I made a wonderful business working with new and unknown writers who I found interesting and exciting,” he said three years ago. “It’s now time to give something back.”
After earning a master’s in American musical theater at the University of Miami, Melnick served as an assistant at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, then moved to New York, where he was hired by agent Lily Veidt.
He came to Los Angeles to become an executive at Paramount but lost his job in a management reorganization and returned to representing talent, working alongside such agents as Judy Boals and Jeannine Edmonds and managing the literary department at the Harry Gold Agency.
Melnick went on to also rep playwright-screenwriters Bob Randall, Lee Blessing and William Faure, and he had an executive producing credit on Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007).
Melnick retired from Hollywood in 2017 after moving to his second home in Palm Springs but continued to represent his clients’ plays and consult with Broadway producers. He also was on the board of the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre.
A celebration in his honor will be held in Palm Springs early next year.
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