Several well-known actors are directing plays in New York this season, including Cynthia Nixon and Michael Arden.
Somebody first asked Cynthia Nixon to be a director when she was 22 years old. “I kind of laughed at them,” she says. Although she had been acting on Broadway since the age of 14, “I was younger than the people asking me to direct their play,” she says, “and I certainly would not have had any idea how to go about that.”
More than a quarter century later, she changed her mind. The actress best known for her role as Miranda in Sex and the City is directing Steve, a new play at the New Group, her second directing job this year. She joins David Hyde Pierce (who is also directing his second play this year, an Off-Broadway production entitled Ripcord), Kathleen Turner (Would You Still Love Me If . . .), Douglas Hodge (the Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times), and Michael Arden.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” says Arden of this apparent surge in moonlighting actors. “I think people are starting to acknowledge artists for their full potential.” Arden, who is probably best known for his costarring role with Charlie Sheen in the FX TV series Anger Management, has made a spectacular debut as a Broadway director helming the widely acclaimed Deaf West production of Spring Awakening.
Unlike Nixon, Arden had long wanted to be a director, but nobody would hire him. “Just think of the numbers. You may need 20 actors for a play, but you only need one director. People would look at my résumé and say, ‘Oh, you’re an actor; it’s nice you want to direct.’ I realized the only way I was going to be seen as a director is if I did it myself, so I started up a theater company in Los Angeles, directed a small production, and then raised the money from Kickstarter to direct this production of Spring Awakening.” The show began in a small theatre and made its way to Broadway.
“Actors are always saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a director,’ so it’s no surprise to me that it’s happening,” says Mario Cantone, who was a colleague of Nixon’s on Sex and the City, and is now in the cast of the show she’s directing. “Cynthia has always had a commanding personality and very strong opinions, and she’s very smart, sharp, and precise in her acting. That’s the way she directs also.”
The Birth of the Director
The profession of actor goes back thousands of years, but the professional director is a relatively modern phenomenon, dating only to the late 19th century. The Ancient Greek playwrights probably staged their own plays, and “actor-managers” were in charge during Shakespeare’s era.
“I sometimes feel like I’m an actor-manager, partially because I am an actor myself,” says Arden. As a director, “I feel like I’m working with my peers. I know how important it is to have respect for actors,- and communicate openly with them, as opposed to being a voice from the back of the auditorium like in A Chorus Line.” As Nixon puts it: “There are some directors who don’t even think of actors as fully evolved intelligent beings. We seem to them like a conduit through which they pour the play.”
But some of Broadway’s best known and most praised directors began as actors. Elia Kazan, who performed in some dozen Broadway shows as a member of the famed Group Theater, went on to direct the original productions of numerous now-classic American plays, including Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Although not as well known, Martin Ritt followed a similar trajectory. “It might have been their acting background that made them so earthy,” Miller said about both of them, believing they feared “making actors think too much at the expense of instinctively sniffing out the role and situation.”
Joe Mantello made his Broadway debut as the star of the Pulitzer Prize–winning play by Tony Kushner Angels in America, for which he was nominated for a Tony. He has gone on to become a two-time Tony-winning director of more than two dozen Broadway productions, including Wicked. Mantello returned to acting briefly to star in the Broadway production of The Normal Heart in 2011 — for which he was nominated for yet another Tony Award — and then went right back to directing.
“So many people find their way into show business as actors, whether on a professional level or as an amateur,” Nixon explains. “Being an actor is the most visible occupation in the theater; that’s what everybody is drawn to. Oftentimes people stay as actors, but once we’re in the theater we all learn about what else it offers, and so some become directors, writers, lighting designers, stage managers.”
Nixon became interested in directing more than a decade ago, but it was her association with the New Group theater company and its artistic director, Scott Elliott, that made it happen. “I was in an all-star reading that Scott was doing as a fundraiser for the New Group, and I guess I had all of these opinions about the speed of the reading or something — I kept expressing my opinion. He said, ‘Well I guess you will be directing this reading next year because you’re already directing it.’ I thought he was kidding. But six months later, he called and said, ‘Well, what are you going to do for the reading?’” By that time, she says, “I had a lot of experience watching a lot of directors close up. Some actors really like the actor to stay out of their way. I’ve always really liked a ton of direction.” She was ready — almost. “Scott held my hand every step of the way.”
Finding a Balance
Earlier this year, Nixon tried her hand at directing her first full production, also for the New Group: Rasheeda Speaking, a new play by Joel Drake Johnson, starring Dianne Wiest and Tonya Pinkins as office workers who start as friends and wind up as enemies. “It was very fascinating because we were talking about these very painful intimate topics that had to do with race and friendship and betrayal of friendship and office politics.”
Her second directing job, Steve, by Mark Gerrard, is in marked contrast to her first. The comedy about a group of middle-aged friends focuses on Steven, a failed Broadway chorus boy, and Stephen, his partner of 14 years. “Rasheeda was about claustrophobia and subtext and tension. Most of the characters in Steve are performers, and they’re outright witty and funny,” Nixon says. “There are a lot of hijinks in rehearsal, a lot of high spirits.”
There is also music. “It’s not a musical, but the characters sing a lot of show tunes. Even though I am not a musical performer, my favorite kind of theater is musical theater, so that is really fun to be around.” Would she ever direct an actual musical? “I think you have to be musical to direct a musical. Maybe not.”
Although she only started directing in earnest this year, she already sees the influence it has had on her acting. “I have always been pretty willing to try things, but I think I’m even more willing to try things now that I have been on the other side of it, spending time negotiating with actors. ‘If you hate it, you do not have to do it, but let’s try it rather than spend 20 minutes talking about whether we are going to try it.’”
As for the future, neither Nixon nor Arden is sure what the balance will be between acting and directing. “It’s like going to the gym,” says Arden. “I’ve been working on my directing muscles, and I’d like to continue without neglecting my acting muscles. I think that it’s going to be an interesting sort of tightrope.”
Nixon has come to understand the upsides and downsides of her new career. “As a director, I have so much more of a feeling of responsibility, so I’m constantly thinking about it. But the nice thing about being a director is you don’t have to learn any lines.”
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
Introduction and Your Acceptance of These Terms
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.