Memorial Service

by jonathansoroko on April 10, 2009

A memorial service was held on Sunday, May 3rd, at the Manhattan Theater Club. If you need additional information, contact Karen Raphael via


Photos of Shirl

by KarenRaphael on April 10, 2009

Here are some headshots and miscellaneous photos of Shirl.


{ 0 comments } ‘s posting about Shirl’s death

by KarenRaphael on April 6, 2009

Headlines: Audience Award Winner Shirl Bernheim Dead at 87

by Staff
©2002 Bruce Glikas/
Shirl Bernheim

Shirl Bernheim, a Audience Award winner for her performance in Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, died on March 30. She was 87.

Bernheim, a Bronx native, was born on September 21, 1921. She made her Broadway debut in 1978 in Grease and returned to the Great White Way 22 years later in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, for which she won the 2001 Audience Award for Favorite Featured Actress in a Broadway Play. Berheim portrayed a foul-mouthed mother in Busch’s play, which was based on the author’s aunt. Bernheim discussed meeting the real-life inspiration for her character in her Fresh Face interview: “I met his Aunt Frieda, I don’t remember if her name was really Frieda, but I met her—and she does use four-letter words very elegantly. She’s a very pretty lady, but I don’t know much about her life. I just try to be myself.”

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A sample of Shirl’s performances

by KarenRaphael on April 5, 2009

Shirl’s 2004 performance on Law and Order (Evil Breeds)

Shirl in Natalie Merchant’s Music Video “Trouble me”


“Living Treasure”

by KarenRaphael on April 3, 2009

Tale of the Allergist’s Wife
Paper Mill: The State Theater of NJ
Millburn, NJ – January 2004
Excerpted from Review by John Kenrick

All actors and fans of great acting please take note — a unique clinic in the art of stage performance is being given nightly on the Paper Mill stage during this run of Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. Shirl Bernheim triumphed as Marjorie’s hyper-critical, potty mouthed mother in the original Broadway cast . Instead of merely repeating that acclaimed performance, she has reconceived her interpretation to fit this new production — as a result, she is even more hilarious and touching than ever, offering a performance that is a triumph of professionalism and flawless technique. Her infirmities (quite real — not just part of the show) do not not prevent this diminutive powerhouse from working magic in every corner of the multi-level set. Now in her eighties, she is fresh and irresistible. Playing the audience like a keyboard, she turns giggles into belly laughs, and big comic moments into show stoppers. In Far Eastern cultures, Shirl Bernheim would be hailed as a living treasure — we Americans must settle for cheering like lunatics whenever she takes a bow. Years from now when Paper Mill regulars look back on this production, it is Ms. Bernheim’s performance that they will be talking about.


‘Written for Me’

by jonathansoroko on April 1, 2009

‘Written for Me’

At first glance, Shirl Bernheim looks like your cookie-cutter little old lady, a kindly blue-hair with ready access to cookies and milk. And then she talks.

”I used to sing in the borscht belt,” she said in a tone that sounds part canine. ”You know what that is? Ah, probably not.”

It is exactly that spunk that Ms. Bernheim, 79, has been endowing in the role of Frieda, the foul-mouthed matriarch in ”The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” the strong-selling comedy at the Barrymore Theater.

Ms. Bernheim says she was made for the role. ”It’s like it was written for me,” she said. ”She walks with a walker. Me, too. She has a filthy mouth, and that’s what I have.”

Born in ”a little mining town called the Bronx,” Ms. Bernheim started acting as a child and never gave up. It wasn’t until 1970, though, that she made her professional stage debut, in an erotically tinged play called ”Stag Movie.” ”I was the only one who didn’t take her clothes off,” she said.

Since then, she has played regionally and in New York, making her Broadway debut in 1978 in ”Grease.” Now that she’s back, she intends to stay. ”It’s a pleasure,” she said.

Excerpted from Jesse McKinley, ON STAGE AND OFF; A Tug of War Over ‘Long Day’, The New York Times, December 1, 2000.



“Late-blooming Stardom” – Jewish Journal, 2002

by KarenRaphael on April 1, 2009

In 2002, during the the run of Charles Busch’s “The Allergist’s Wife,” Naomi Pfefferman wrote a profile of Shirl Bernheim – “The Tale of the Allergist’s Mother | “I figured maybe it was my last chance.”

Shirl Bernheim is sitting in her dressing room at the Ahmanson Theatre, her cane tucked in a corner, preparing to transform herself into the hilariously fierce Jewish mama of Charles Busch’s hit play, “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.”

“I’m getting fapitzed,” she says an hour before showtime, patting her blue-white hair and sounding like everyone’s kindly bubbe. Then she shoots a withering look at her costumes. “Here are the shmattes they make me wear,” she says with disgust. “The most awful-looking dreck.”

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Shirl’s pipl profile

by KarenRaphael on April 1, 2009

Shirl’s pipl profile


John Tillotson: letter to AEA Equity News

by admin on March 31, 2009

The following letter has been sent to the AEA Equity News by John Tillotson.

To the Editor:

In the April 26, 2001 issue of Time Out New York “42 Reasons to Applaud the NYC Theater” reason number eight read “Tough Old Broads. Seasoned actresses are often called upon to provide comic relief in the form of the ditzy, flustered biddy. Not this year. Shirl Bernheim’s physically frail but potty-mouthed Frieda in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife sets a new high for the buttinsky Jewish mother… Here’s to the ladies with punch!” After being hit by a car on Queen’s Boulevard two years earlier Shirl had roared back to the theatre to the greatest acclaim of her career, first at Manhattan Theatre Club, then Broadway and on tour in Charles Busch’s hit comedy. At the ripe young age of 80 she had arrived. And she was magnificent.

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Shirl with the Broadway cast of Tale of the Allergist's Wife