When the organizers of the Tony Awards decided to honor Shubert Organization chairman and co-CEO Philip J. Smith with its lifetime achievement trophy, they weren’t kidding about the lifetime part.

Smith has been involved in New York City theater since his first afterschool job as an usher at Brooklyn’s now-defunct Orpheum Theater. Except for a brief early-career flirtation with a gig at a race track, Smith has spent more than 60 years in the theater biz, and more than 50 of those with the Shuberts.

Kicking off with a stint as a box office treasurer, Smith’s long tenure at the Shuberts culminated in 2008 with his current post, considered by many to be the most powerful position in the New York theater industry. In addition to operating the ticketing service used by most Broadway venues, the Shubert Org is also the landlord-owner of 17 of the 40 Main Stem houses.

According to Smith, one of his main goals throughout his career has been to strengthen what was once a more adversarial coexistence among producers and theater owners.

“From day one, I tried to make it a relationship between the producers and Shuberts,” he says. “This game is a partnership.”

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