On Sept. 22, San Diego's Globe Theatres held a gala celebrating artistic director Jack O'Brien's twenty years at the helm. The plaudits haven't stopped for O'Brien, for on Nov. 19 in New York, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation will bestow upon him its annual Joe A. Callaway Award.
Given each year to recognize excellence in direction and choreography, the Award will honor two O'Brien projects, The Invention of Love and The Full Monty, which both opened on Broadway last season. Tom Stoppard's love was an intricate and often fanciful narrative, held together by O'Brien's dreamlike staging; Monty is a hit musical that successfully transposed a working-class English story to a depressed American steel town.
When told of the award, O'Brien said in a statement the honor was especially heartening, since he actually knew Joe Callaway "who was an alumni [sic] of The Old Globe Theatre's original company... I am thrilled."
O'Brien was nominated for the award — which must go to an SSDC member with an SSDC-eligible show during the past theatre season — alongside directors Mark Brokaw (Lobby Hero), John Rando (Urinetown) and Ian McIlhinney (Stones in his Pockets) and choreographers John Carrafa (Urinetown) and Jerry Mitchell (The Full Monty). This year's Callaway judges included Schellie Archbold, Karen Azenberg, Peter Bennett, Linda Burson, Hope Clarke, David Dorwant, Jay Harnick, Barry McNabb and Melanie Sutherland.
In Broadway's 2000-01 season, O'Brien took the raunchy, raucous Full Monty from a sold-out run at the Globe directly to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill and then turned around and staged Tom Stoppard's difficult and extremely quiet The Invention of Love at the Lyceum, receiving two Tony Award nominations. After the awards hype ended, O'Brien went right back to the Globe, where he directed Twelfth Night with Groener and Paxton Whitehead during the summer. For the company, O'Brien has staged world premieres (Pride's Crossing, Getting Away With Murder, The Cocktail Hour ), Shakespeare's canon (Hamlet, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice) and musical chestnuts (Broadway's Damn Yankees) throughout his long career. The first Callaway Award winner, in 1989, was Gloria Muzio (Other People's Money. Other winners have included Harold Prince (1993's Kiss of the Spider Woman), Julie Taymor (1996's The Green Bird), and Gabriel Barre and Mark Dendy (2000's The Wild Party at Manhattan Theatre Club).
— By David Lefkowitz