Tony Award-winning alumnus visits Theatre Department

By Kendall Polidori, Staff Reporter

Courtesy of Albert Williams

With a room full of eager students and faculty, four former colleagues reminisced about their days as theatre students at Columbia.

David Cromer, Columbia theatre alum, former faculty member, and Tony Award-winner of Best Director/Musical for “The Band’s Visit,” filled the room with laughter and conversation during his visit to the Getz Theater Center, 72 E. 11th St., April 15.

“Because of the nature of [Columbia’s Theatre] Department, going to Columbia assisted in the idea … you could find your way in the business,” Cromer said.

Cromer started as a student at Columbia in 1982 but did not graduate, instead pursuing his passion of directing. He visited campus while in Chicago preparing to direct the musical “Next to Normal” at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, May 8 – June 16.

Cromer told the audience even though they may have an image of exactly what they want to do, it may not end up to be what they actually do.

Freshman musical theatre major Elizabeth Sacha said she was interested in attending the event because she wrote a paper on “The Band’s Visit.”

“There is a certain authenticity in ‘The Band’s Visit’ that seems so different from what the other shows in the era are,” Sacha said. “It was simplistic; it touched a very human side of me, and I was definitely drawn to that.”

Junior musical theatre major Kristina Plumb said she wanted to get more information about what it takes to work in show business as well as learn about Cromer’s experience working in Chicago and New York.

Cromer said the only problem with working and trying to make a living was that Chicago follows more of a nonprofit model, whereas New York has a for-profit model, meaning many shows in Chicago do not supply a sustainable profit. He said he felt there was no room to grow professionally.

Cromer answered questions from the audience about his work, including what it takes to be a director and advice on how to go forward with their educations and careers.

“What you want to do is not always what you may end up doing, keep your ears open for something else that is better for you,” Cromer said.

Sacha said having Cromer speak to the Theatre Department shows possibilities for students. She added that so many times directors, playwrights and composers seem as though they are from a different world because they are only seen on screen and their music is only heard from afar.

“For them to sit down and talk to us makes the fantasy seem like a possibility,” Sacha said.

Event Coordinator and Associate Professor of Instruction for the Theatre Department Albert Williams said it is important to show students they can communicate easily with  people at Cromer’s level.

“The people at his level of professional achievement are very accessible,” Williams said. “[Cromer] is also just a guy who likes making theatre.”