Director David Cromer starred as 'Stage Manager' in the Off-Broadway play Our Town, which played at the Barrow Street Theatre from 26 Feb 2009 - 12 Sep 2010.
October 17th 1964.
Place of birth?
You now live in?
Did you go to training school, if so which one?
Columbia College in Chicago. The school’s design is that your teachers are working professionals in a very vibrant theatre scene. So if you were halfway decent (and I was exactly halfway decent) you made some professional connections and you could start working fairly early. I never really finished, though. I think I may have 4 general studies credits. Not 4 left to obtain. 4 total. 4.
The first work you ever directed was?
Young Hack and his Girl. It was in Directing 1, required for acting majors, which I was at the time (and if I’d stayed on we would not be having this conversation). I liked directing too much, so I ran away from it for several years. Maybe I thought it would distract me from my destiny of playing Brutus’ boy Lucius in the Oak Park Festival Theatre’s production Julius Caesar.
Career highlight to date?
The scene from Waiting For Lefty and my work in Julius Caesar, come to mind.
What roles would you most like to direct?
I really assumed that I would spend my life wandering the wilderness directing the 4 major Chekhov plays (and occasionally Ivanov) over and over again and then be buried at sea sewn up in a clean white sack and pitched overboard-at noon-in the blaze of summer-and into an ocean as blue as my first lover’s eyes. But no one has ever, ever, ever asked me to direct any Chekhov. Also, I really seriously want to direct Annie.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
Standing is more tiring than walking (and I don’t mean that in a fancy, empowering, symbolic way, like ‘stasis is crippling and progress is invigorating’. I mean literally, if you’re waiting for a bus, walk around, it’s less tiring).
Also, an actor named Larry McCauley offered this to me after I had explained in ridiculous detail some high-falutin’ reason I was playing some unplayable acting choice, he said, “Or, you could play it like a person. Suppose you were playing a person, what would a person do here?”
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
Directing is kind of embarrassing overall, because everything you say, suggest, ask for, or decide carries the implication that you think you know best. We have a very complicated relationship with ego in the Midwest.
What is the most annoying part about your job?
When I or my co-workers are lazy and cheap. You can be lazy OR cheap, either is fine, you just can’t be both at the same time.
Briefly tell us how you become involved with Our Town?
I was asked by The Hypocrites’ artistic director Sean Graney to direct a play for his company. He wanted to do Our Town, I wanted to do Summer and Smoke. He pushed for Our Town. I knew I’d get my way if I said “Okay, Our Town, and I also want to play the Stage Manager”, but he said, “Great.” And here we are.
Briefly tell us about the character you play in Our Town?
He stands between the play and the audience and coaxes them towards one another.
How does it feel to be an actor in a play which you direct?
I don’t know who’s a bigger jerk, me or the director.
What are your thoughts about your record breaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town now that its run is drawing an end?
This production obviously had a pretty profound effect on my professional and personal life so it’s a complicated feeling. On one level, it’s just another play and we had a great, lucky run, and there’ve been billions of plays and there’ll be billions more. So it’s fine. But, the play itself is so special. I was just talking to one of our former Stage Managers and we were saying it just kind of hurts not to get to say those words anymore.
You are to direct the Broadway premiere of Yank! What are your thoughts as you prepare for that production?
The authors just wrote a really spectacular new draft of the show. I’m hungrier to work on this than anything in recent memory. YANK! is incredibly traditional and romantic and satisfying and delicious, but sort of sneaking out of all that tradition, it’s incredibly forward, and edgy and muscular and funny. I’m giddy about having that much stuff to work with. The juxtaposition of toughness and delicacy is very strange and challenging and it’s freaking me out a little how to get my hands around it. But that’s a feeling I like having, so, I’m working on how to really present, in an integrated way, the swerve between the small personal epic that is falling in love for the first time and the giant problem of how we’re going to live thru the next 5 minutes in a huge global conflict. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about Casablanca and Gone with the Wind to prepare for it.
Favorite after-show haunts?
A.O.C. at Bleecker and Grove in the West Village.
What was the last book you read, and name some of your favorite authors?
I’m rereading “The Devil in the White City.” The last time I read it I was really focused on and inspired by the Burnham and Olmstead sections (I live a block from Central Park) and wasn’t that interested in the H. H. Holmes stuff. This time I cannot get enough of the murderer. Is that bad?
What was the last film you saw, and name some of your favorite movies?
Toy Story 3, but I’m starting to find Pixar’s stratospheric level of excellence to be numbing and exhausting.
Favorite TV programs?
You wake up early enough you can get 3 episodes of “West Wing” right off the bat. Then it’s anything on HGTV or DIY network. Weekends you got your “Lockup,” your “Lockup Raw,” and your “Lockup Investigates.” I am cautiously optimistic about this season of “Project Runway.” I’m thinking we all need a sassy gay friend to talk us out of our unfulfilling/abusive relationship with “Mad Men.”
Favorite holiday destinations?
Do you have any hobbies?
Do you have any superstitions?
For some reason I have to have 11 cents in my pocket when I play the Stage Manager.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Guy walks into a bar, sits down, and orders a shot. Down the bar, to his left, about 4 stools away he sees a guy with a big, giant, round, orange head…
What are your future plans?
See you at the party.
Questions by Alan Bird