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The Flick (#110 of 3)

Summer of Sam: An Interview with Fun Home and The Flick Director Sam Gold

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Summer of Sam: An Interview with Fun Home and The Flick Director Sam Gold
Summer of Sam: An Interview with Fun Home and The Flick Director Sam Gold

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.

The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: The Flick, Belleville, & Really Really

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The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: <em>The Flick</em>, <em>Belleville</em>, & <em>Really Really</em>
The Best of Off-Broadway’s Theatricalization of Film: <em>The Flick</em>, <em>Belleville</em>, & <em>Really Really</em>

The best Off Broadway productions so far this year—The Flick at Playwrights Horizons, Belleville at New York Theatre Workshop, and Really Really at Manhattan Class Company—would probably make lousy movies. There’s no shame in that, but plenty of irony. After all, the traditional well-made play still serves as the model for most film scripts. To stake out fresh territory, talented young writers like Annie Baker, Amy Herzog, and Paul Downs Colazzo have veered away from the classic theater conventions annexed by films. Turnabout being fair play, they’ve theatricalized film techniques and genres to come up with something all their own.

Baker’s The Flick is a virtuosic example of naturalism. But it’s also a high-concept exploration of the push-me-pull-you relationship between film and theater. Collegiate movie nerd Avery learns how things work behind the screen at the Flick, a movie theater in Worcester County, Massachusetts. His teachers are the 35-year-old, longtime attendant Sam and 29-year-old projectionist Rose. The plot is minimal and the running time is maximal, giving director Sam Gold room to exhibit how theater can match film’s vaunted prowess at exhibiting the flicker of feeling crossing someone’s face.