For the past five years, director Sam Gold has been a standard bearer for seriously accessible American theater. He zig-zags from 70-seat to 2,700-seat venues, from new plays to revivals. He works prodigiously (five shows this season alone), but never without care. Not everything has been received rapturously, but all have featured tightly knit acting ensembles, a keen consideration of text, and precisely configured playing spaces. In 2013, he directed The Flick by frequent collaborator Annie Baker, who went on to win the Pulitzer for the play. One of the two finalists was Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, which he’d directed at the Public Theater.
This spring he’s brought the two back. Though Fun Home wasn’t broken, he’s continued to fix it up, transforming a stirringly effective show into the most emotionally satisfying new Broadway musical in decades. The Flick remains an essential work of hyper-realist art. Both translate cinematic ideas of focus and framing into arresting, theatrical visions which grab the heart. I spoke with Gold between TV rehearsal for a Fun Home promotional event, in the march toward the Tony Awards, and an Off-Broadway preview for The Flick.
In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel is split into three characters: “Small Alison,” college-age “Medium Alison,” and grown-up Alison. Who are your Small and Medium Sams?
I grew up on the Upper East Side, when there were movie theaters in the neighborhood. They’re all gone now. I started acting in high school, went to college as an English major, not knowing what I’d do. I was acting and, early on, was encouraged by some people to direct because it was right for my temperament, which is a nice way of saying I’m a very bossy, opinionated person. And also I was a terrible actor.