PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Pulitzer Prize Winner and Don't Go Gentle Star Michael Cristofer

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16 Oct 2012

Michael Cristofer
Michael Cristofer
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Stage and screen veteran Michael Cristofer, who stars in Stephen Belber's Don't Go Gentle at MCC Theater, fills out's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Theatre work includes A View from the Bridge with Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare in the Park), Trumpery (Atlantic Theater), Body of Water with Christine Lahti, The Seagull with Joanne Woodward, The Cherry Orchard with Irene Worth (Theater World Award), Chinchilla (Obie Award) and The Intelligent Homosexual... (Public Theater).

He recently played Truxton Spangler on AMC's "Rubicon" and is currently appearing in "Smash" on NBC.

Writer: The Shadow Box (Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award), Amazing Grace (American Theater Critics Award), "Lady and the Clarinet" with Stockard Channing, "The Witches of Eastwick" with Jack Nicholson, "Falling in Love" and "Casanova."


Full given name: Michael Cristofer
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in Trenton, NJ, in a little Italian ghetto called Chambersburg.
Zodiac Sign:Aquarius
What your parents did/do for a living:My father was a steel worker for John A. Roebling, the company that supplied the flatwire for the George Washington Bridge. His salary was $4000 a year.
Siblings:Two sisters. Joyce Ketay, who is a literary agent, reps David Rabe, Neil LaBute and Tony Kushner, among others. Kate Thomas is my younger sister. She's a choreographer and also runs the school dance program at "Steps."
Special skills: I'm a pretty good cook. Other than that, nothing.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Directing plays. I've done it twice. The first time, I was fired. The second time, I got 47 bad reviews. So never again.
First Broadway show you ever saw: When I was a child, my father took me to see the original production of Bye Bye Birdie. Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde... I was knocked out.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Oh, so many. But maybe first on the list would be the Lunts in The Visit directed by Peter Brook. I did a screenplay based on the play for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. But it never happened.
Favorite showtunes of all time: Almost anything by Cole Porter. Just genius.
Some favorite musicals: Anyone remember Greenwillow with Tony Perkins? Love it.
Some favorite modern plays: I'm a big fan of The Faith Healer by Brian Friel because it's about the question of making magic or failing to make magic, which I think is the challenge of performing.
Some favorite modern playwrights: I think we're devolving into a period of what I call "non-plays," plays in which the conflicts are so thin and so buried that they really never engage the audience. Of course we're also devolving into an audience that really doesn't want to be engaged. So anybody who still goes for the throat is a hero to me.
Stage or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Peter O'Toole, Spencer Tracy....opposite ends of a spectrum.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Well, it's so gay, but I have to say Streisand in Funny Girl. I can still feel the excitement of watching her spin magic on that stage and the sound that was coming out of her. Unforgettable.

And I did see the original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which produced gasps from the audience about every 3 minutes.

Music that makes you cry/moves you, any genre: Strauss' "Four Last Songs." Kills me every time.
Your personal acting idols: Mark Rylance, Phil Hoffman, Liev Schreiber, Linda Emond, Meryl... like that.
Most played song on your iPod: Steven Pasquale singing "Maybe" from Annie. Beautiful.
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