Merle Debuskey was press agent for over 500 shows between 1948 and 1996, ranging from highly political plays in tiny Greenwich Village theatres to Broadway blockbusters. Debuskey is perhaps best known as the New York Shakespeare Festival's first and most lasting press agent, beginning with the nonprofit in the 1950s when Joseph Papp was a poor unknown working out of a church on the Lower East Side. Debuskey left in 1985, six years before Papp's death.
Debuskey did the publicity for more than 300 Broadway productions -- more than any other press agent in Broadway history. He entered the trade shortly after World War II and retired in 1996. During that time he handled the press for the legendary Circle in the Square for 30 years and was Lincoln Center Theater's first press representative, working first under artistic director Gregory Mosher and then Andre Bishop. Among the landmark Broadway shows he handled are the original productions of Raisin in the Sun, Inherit the Wind, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Little Me, Come Blow Your Horn, Purlie, and Amadeus.
Debuskey was also the president at ATPAM, the press agent's union, for 25 years, and was instrumental, in the 1950s, in developing a workable Actors' Equity contract with the then-nascent Off-Broadway theatre.
In spring 2010, Applause Books published Robert Simonson's The Gentleman Press Agent: 50 Years in the Theatrical Trenches, a far-ranging account of Debuskey's rich and varied experiences during the Golden Age of Broadway theatre and beyond.