PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With David West Read, Playwright of Broadway's The Performers

By Michael Gioia
20 Oct 2012

Jenni Barber and Henry Winkler
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Can you talk about assembling this cast — Cheyenne Jackson. Alicia Silverstone. Henry Winkler…!
DWR: It's been an amazing "putting-the-pieces-together" because we kind of picked up one cast member at a time. And, they're all our dream versions of these parts. They're all so distinct. They all bring these multi-layered performances. They're all hysterical, and I just feel so lucky to be working with such talented people on this.

This seems very different from the work you premiered last year, The Dream of the Burning Boy, about a high school tragedy, with Roundabout Underground. Can you tell me the differences in style between both works? Do you go through the same writing process?
DWR: Well, I think the main difference is that you're kind of clocking laughs [with The Performers] because we are aiming for the big comedy here, but fundamentally it's the same process — trying to make these people real. I think it's always funnier if the characters are real, the relationships are grounded, and it's actually about something. Even though [The Dream of the Burning Boy] is a quiet little play about grief and [The Performers] is a big broad comedy about the adult film industry, I think the process, for me, is kind of weirdly similar.

And, you get to reunite with director Evan Cabnet, who helmed Burning Boy.
DWR: It's so great to work with Evan. We did our first play together in 60 seats, and now this is a huge Broadway house. It makes me feel more comfortable. Evan is a great collaborator, and I think I can feel free to try whatever I want because he'll tell me if it's no good. We have that trust level, so it's really nice to be doing this. My first Broadway show, [and] it's his first Broadway show — it feels like we're in this together.

It must be exciting to make your Broadway debut alongside your friend and a cast of Broadway, film and television stars. Are you anxious? Are you nervous?
DWR: I'm nervous, but I'm also very cautiously optimistic because it feels like we've got something exciting.

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

Meet The Performers: