Rebecca Taichman recalls sitting in the orchestra at Broadway’s Cort Theatre as a child and feeling, for the first time, overwhelmed by theatre. Her parents had taken her to see the South African musical Sarafina!, and her mother, who was seated in a box above her, looked down at her daughter and saw “a beam of light”; a little girl “entranced and glowing.” Neither of them knew then that many years later, Taichman would make her Broadway directorial debut in that very theatre—with Paula Vogel’s Indecent—and win a Tony Award.
The idea that one can look at a present moment with knowledge of the future is at the very heart of J.B. Priestley’s 1937 play Time and the Conways. The story begins with a lavish birthday party and its exuberant guests in 1919 Britain, then skips 19 years into the future. Taichman, who previously directed the play at the Old Globe, returns to Broadway with a new production for Roundabout Theatre Company, currently playing at the American Airlines Theatre with a star-studded cast that includes Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern.
Taichman says that she was “blown away” by Time and the Conways, which she says is still deeply relevant. “He is critiquing, in a very profound way, a bourgeois class that is stuck in narcissism and greed,” she says. “He’s warning his audience about the dangers of living that way, and that felt relevant to our culture and society—this principle of greed overwhelming us.”
She also found the play to be “very evocative and powerful”—a story that not only touches on class but also family, love, jealousy, and motherhood. “The characters are beautifully wrought,” says Taichman. “Priestley is playing with some huge conceptual ideas, and at the same time he’s written this family and the people that orbit around them with enormous complexity and compassion.”
As a director, Taichman refuses to be categorized; her career is marked by an eclectic range of works—from new plays to outdoor operas. After Time and the Conways, Taichman will helm two world premieres Off-Broadway: Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play at MCC Theater, and Lindsey Ferrentino’s This Flat Earth at Playwrights Horizons.
“The end goal of it all,” she says simply, “is to open people’s hearts.” And to hopefully impact audiences, as she was, all those years ago as a young girl in the Cort Theatre.