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Stage Struck

A funny thing happened on Tony winner Jerry Zak's way to med school: he became a Broadway director.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

(continued from page 4)

The scripts he is reading include his next planned sojourn on Broadway--a musical version of George S. Kaufman's and Edna Ferber's renowned play The Royal Family, a 1927 paean to the Barrymore family and the glorious life of the theater and theater folk. The composer is William Finn, whose credits include the hit musical Falsettos; the librettist is Richard Greenberg, whose play Eastern Standard was an off-Broadway success several years ago. The production is scheduled to open this fall. In the meantime, Zaks is getting ready to direct the American premiere of The Cripple of Inishmaan, a play by Martin McDonagh, which will debut this spring at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.

Regardless of the project, he always seems to have his hands full. The theater, after all, is what Jerry Zaks does, what he loves, what he is all about.

"It has just given me such joy," he says. "I'm talking about palpable happiness. I love a good story. I love when time stops. When a play is good, that's what happens--you lose all sense of time, of it endlessly speeding by. Your attention is taken off yourself and put onto something else; you get lost in the reality of what is happening on-stage."

He ponders. "And I guess that for me it's also the idea of having an effect on people. When you grow up, as many of us do, wondering whether you have an effect or not, questioning your own sense of self-worth, and you see that by virtue of the theater you do have an effect on people, it makes you feel...well, I once said that it makes you feel like the world's greatest lover. And it does. That roar of the audience--when it happens it's like 1,200 people saying to you simultaneously, 'Thank you, we needed that.'"

But, he says, it's even more than that. "The great director George Abbott lived to 107," Zaks says. "And I can see why he lived a long life. Because what he did--and what I do--when it comes down to it, is just a lot of fun."

Mervyn Rothstein is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

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