Sam Gold, Thomas Kail and Alex Timbers: A New Generation Helming Broadway

By Jonathan Mandell
02 Feb 2012

Thomas Kail
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

With Magic/Bird, Kail returns for the second time on Broadway to his childhood obsession: sports (the first time was with the football bio Lombardi). He played soccer from ages four to 18, only stopping when he realized he "had peaked three years earlier and nobody had told" him. In college at Wesleyan, a classmate recruited him to help work on a play, and he saw similarities between the sports community he had just left and the theatre community he was about to join. Like coaching, he says, directing involves "getting together a group of people who have never met and unifying them."

Kail had already graduated when he first saw a work-in-progress by an undergraduate named Lin-Manuel Miranda. He spent the next seven years working on In the Heights. He made a living during that time by working as Audra McDonald's assistant. "The advantage of being young is that expectations are very low," he says. When In the Heights became a hit, "it was if it had come out of nowhere."

Shortly after Heights' opening, Kail hung out with a friend who had become a professional football player. In talking with him, Kail started to see himself as lucky that he had to replace the stadium with the stage: "He said to me, 'We're both 31. I'm just figuring out what to do, and my body can't do it anymore. You're just figuring it out, and you have your whole life to do it.'"

Alex Timbers

When Peter and the Starcatcher comes to Broadway, it will be the second time that a show Timbers directed Off-Broadway has transferred. The first, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, was developed by the theatre company he created when he was 25 years old, Les Freres Corbusier, which has a downtown sensibility rooted in the experimental. But the plays he did in college included such accessible farces as Lend Me a Tenor. "My interest in doing mainstream theatre never evaporated," he says. Indeed, his first job on Broadway was in 2005, as an assistant director for Jersey Boys.

He began his theatre company, he says, because he didn't think he would get to work as a director otherwise. "People ask, 'Is this person mature enough to handle a large budget, to be a leader?'" Now that he has proven himself as a director, he only spends about a tenth of his time on projects connected to his company, he says, "but it's still important to me."

Gold, inspired by his backstage conversations about directing with Anne Frank cast member Austin Pendleton, worked after college as a dramaturg for The Wooster Group, where he says he learned from artistic director Elizabeth LeCompte to spend time with the cast and be rigorous in the details. The approach paid off when he spent two years of intense work with the cast of Annie Baker's play Circle Mirror Transformation, which became a hit at Playwrights Horizons and got Gold noticed. (Gold's staging of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger is currently playing Off-Broadway in a production by Roundabout Theatre Company.)

"More people should take risks on young artists," Gold says. "Great work is made by young people with passion. They are at a point in their lives when they're willing to take risks, and have less to lose."