David Cromer in conversation at Columbia College: on his directing process, Annie, Yank! and the New Yankee Workshop
Theater director Columbia College Chicago last night as a subject of the school's Conversations in the Arts series of public talks, for a wide-ranging hour-plus interview with Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones followed by questions from an audience that included such Cromer associates as Sheldon Patinkin, Natasha Lowe, Stacy Stoltz and John Judd in addition to former students. Cromer covered high points of his long history in Chicago theater (he mentioned a 1991 production of John Guare's Women and Water with his onetime company Big Game Theatre and the late-’90s Journeymen production of Angels in America) as well as his current career on Broadway, where he's slated to direct Ben Stiller, Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Guare's House of Blue Leaves this spring and Nicole Kidman, with the possible addition of James Franco, in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth in the fall.returned to his old stomping grounds at
Jones noted the question he was most frequently asked to pose to Cromer: Will the director continue returning to Chicago and working at venues like the non-Equity Mary-Arrchie, much to the presumed horror of his New York agents? Cromer's answer: a firm "Yes," to much applause. A few more choice quotes after the jump.
On what he looks for from actors in auditions: Cromer noted he's attuned to actors who are "doing things" rather than "feeling things," which led to an extended metaphor about his step-to-step, action-to-action theory of theater that invoked the long-running public television show New Yankee Workshop. (Note that New Yankee Workshop is not to be confused with Cromer's workshop this week of the new musical Yank!)
On his inventive, Cherrywood last summer: "Cherrywood was flying by the seat of my pants in a way that was nauseatingly hard to do."of
On his preference for revivals versus his colleague Anna D. Shapiro's predilection for new scripts: "Her mission was new plays; she's been kissing frogs for 25 years and she's found several princes. I like having a script to bask in."
On his dream projects: "I was thisclose to directing a Broadway revival of Annie."
On theater in Chicago and theater in New York: "We're probably a better actor than it is, but it's a movie star."
On his current status, post–MacArthur "genius" grant and Broadway engagements: "I'm drunk right now but I'm worried about the hangover… I want not to be given everything I want and be unfettered…I worry that that's dangerous." [Jones: "Why?"] "Because… Spider-Man."