Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Zaks’


To survive, theatre artists must be really good at what they do, though sometimes they’re not-so-good at speaking about what they do. These directors are superb at both.

“Truth in theatre is always on the move. As you read this book [The Empty Space] it is already moving out of date. It is for me an exercise, now frozen on the page. But unlike a book, the theatre has one special characteristic. It is always possible to start again. In life this is myth, we ourselves can never go back on anything. New leaves never turn, clocks never go back, we can never have a second chance. In the theatre, the slate is wiped clean all the time.”

Peter Brook by Colm HoganPeter Brook (Born 1925)

I love it when people say ‘What a horrible, lousy idea.’ I think that’s great… I hate the comfort zone. I don’t think that anything that’s really creative can be done without danger and risk.”

Julie TaymorJulie Taymor (Born 1952)


“I never think about putting my stamp on anything… If someone watches a play and they don’t see the hand of the director in it, if it’s seamless and seems effortless, then I will have achieved what I’m after.”

Kenny LeonKenny Leon (Born 1956)


“Bob Fosse told me if you open a musical script and there’s more than a page or a page-and-a-half of text, you better tear off the paper there and stick in a number, because that’s as long as people want to wait before you show them something.”

Graciela DanieleGraciela Daniele (Born 1939) 


“The simple idea is that the theater is a medium… We need new theatrical forms, we need new ways of expressing our ideas. We still have so much work to do in trying to freely figure out how theater speaks, so, to me, this play [33 Variations] is an exercise in that. It’s a play with music, it’s a play with dancing, it’s a play with singing, it’s a play with video… It really tries to redefine how the theatrical space is used.”

Moises KaufmanMoisés Kaufman (Born 1963)  


“I think in our culture there’s been a tendency for people to blame the audience. There is a tendency in our industry to say, ‘The audience has left the building. People don’t want culture anymore. We’re a depraved civilization. All this technology, all the computer games and the iPhones… nobody will sit for art anymore. What a dismaying state of humanity.’ I feel as a theater creator, and now as a producer, that this is the wrong way to think about it. We must ask: What are we doing? How are we responsible? How can we create experiences that will bring audiences back?”

Tony Watch Diane PaulusDiane Paulus (Born 1966)


“The only difference between a play and a musical is that there are more parts to a musical, more things for a director to concern himself or herself with. There is no mystique in directing a musical. The essential task is the same: telling a story that will transport an audience to a place that is hopefully, religious.”

jerryJerry Zaks (Born 1946)

“I’ve always noticed how the men in orchestras struggle with tails … It’s a lot of clothing, and it’s quite constricting, and it can get hot. And for the women, it’s hard for them to know what to wear. I was thinking, ‘Where are we headed with an orchestra in the 21st century?’ I don’t want to change the music, but the trappings? We’re wearing the same clothes we were wearing 200 years ago. It might be time for an update.”

Marin AlsopMarin Alsop (Born 1956)


“For me, the challenge is to make the stage a forum that allows universal themes to shine and refract through the humanity of my cultural lenses. That, I believe, does more than several hundred pieces of race-relations legislation. It makes us all part of the human family. Equally. That’s political!”

Kwame Kwei-ArmahKwame Kwei-Armah (Born 1967)


“On the director’s role: You are the obstetrician. You are not the parent of this child we call the play. You are present at its birth for clinical reasons, like a doctor or midwife. Your job most of the time is simply to do no harm. When something does go wrong, however, your awareness that something is awry – and your clinical intervention to correct it – can determine whether the child will thrive or suffer, live or die.”

Frank HauserFrank Hauser (1922 – 2007)

Photo Credits: Alsop: Grant Leighton; Brook: Colm Hogan; Daniele: Joseph Marzullo/Retna; Hauser: Oxford Playhouse; Kaufman: James Edstrom; Kwei-Armah: Matt Roth/The New York Times; Leon: PR-Web; Paulus: Susan Lapides; Taymor: papptimi/Fidelio; Zaks: Cartazes e Fotografias

Ensemble Studio Theatre Gala

Ann and JerryScene: Caroline’s Comedy Club, NYC, May 3, 2010.

Event: Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Gala

Picture: EST member (and teenage friend) Jerry Zaks, who presented the “Distinguished Member” Award to me. He recalled that I was in the first play he ever did, and thus was his first leading lady.

My husband Roger got the Award too (what are the chances of that? See photo below) as well as esteemed actor Dominic Chianese. We were told the awards honored our outstanding achievements over the past 40 years. Flattering. Not to mention the real reason: survival!

Dominic’s band, the New York Sidewalkers got the entire audience to sing along in a rousing rendition of That’s Amore! and many attendees said the whole thing felt like a family reunion. I was glad that I threw away my impassioned but oh-so-serious acceptance speech before the event, and (as is my tradition) expressed my thoughts in rhyme:

I stand here tonight with the clear sensation
That I am just one in the 4th generation
Of Irish Catholics and German Jews
Who arrived in our country and paid their dues
In order to plant the roots of a tree
Whose branches have grown into my family.

Roger Morgan, you’re part of my tale
And Sam, with your bright-bellied sis: Abigail!

The Morgan family is so far-reaching

It’s hard to fathom the depth of their teaching.

I could list the Sachs-Morgans, one by one
With their spouses and children: for me, t’would be fun

For all of YOU tho, t’would be mighty boring

(And it would be awful to cause all that snoring!)

So I’ll NOT list family names at this time

Though tempting it is to make it all rhyme.

My roots are my backbone and why I stand proud
In front of this highly distinctive crowd.

Agnes and John and Ernest and Maisie

(Good lord I’m listing them – I must be crazy!)

Julius and Rosa – Dad, Mom – and Jim

I carry your love and wisdom within.

What is it I’ve learned that makes me stand tall?
My children and friends often ask, when they call.

I think it’s BELIEF, or so it would seem
You gave me this gift: whatever my dream
Belief it could happen, BELIEF with true ZEAL
Would often make my vision turn REAL.

Then, the Theatre’s dose of daily rejection
Developed my armor: mighty protection

Through sadness and failure, all part of the deal

The standard, in fact, I expected to feel.

We all know, in theatre, that things DO go wrong

And staying the course tends to make us real strong.

So what was the dream I clung to these years?
That thing that kept growing in spite of my tears?
It’s really quite simple, though not to say easy

And sometimes I must say it made me quite queasy:
To merge my life and my work into one

Which included my husband and daughter and son

To create a safe place where all is OK

No matter the obstacles during the day

Has been my passion, my quest to feel free

In fact, it’s rather like – yup – EST!

And Denny, two Jerry’s and – yes – to you ALL!

Marianna and Les, two Mindy’s and Chris:
Abigail, Dave, Sam-Jamie-Nancy-Art-Peter- BetsyPollyMelodieJackSusanAnnieDonnaRita….


Thank you. I’m honored. In my tux and my boa.

Roger Morgan with Jim Boese, VP of the Nederlander Organization, who presented the Award after a humorous introduction about representing the FOR-profit theatre world. (Note: Roger’s Award is a beautiful, useable decanter from Tiffany’s.) Roger recalled the first play he was in at age 12, in a community theatre; he was mortified that people might think he was 10, the age of the character.

The Roches (Terre, Left, and Suzzy) who sang their hilarious song from MAMA DRAMA, I’d Like Her To Be Rich. Beginning in 1987, EST member Christine Farrell initiated MAMA DRAMA as an Octoberfest project; it grew into a full length play over several years at EST. Published by Samuel French, it’s produced all over the country, 20+ years later.

Four MAMA DRAMA writers. From Left: Christine Farrell, Leslie Ayvayzian, me, and Marianna Houston. Missing: Donna Daley, Anne O’Sullivan and the late Rita Nachtmann.

There was a lot of laughter that night (and too many suggestions of a GRAND-MAMA DRAMA!)

Me and Tony Soprano?  Go figure!

Skip to toolbar