January 17 marked the first day of rehearsals for Broadway’s Significant Other, a preview of Yen at Off-Broadway’s Lucille Lortel, and opening night of Jill Kargman’s cabaret at the Café Carlyle. Three very different projects; one director: Trip Cullman. Forty-one days later, the director starts rehearsals for Broadway’s Six Degrees of Separation, starring Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey.
With so much on his plate, one would never guess that Significant Other marks his Broadway debut. This summer, producers announced that the Off-Broadway play by Joshua Harmon, about a single gay twentysomething watching all of his girlfriends tie the knot, would transfer to Broadway’s Booth, marking Cullman’s Main Stem debut. A few months later, in October, the revival of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation was announced. Suddenly, the first-time Broadway director had multiple projects in line.
“It’s really a pinch-me moment,” he says at New 42nd Street Studios, where Significant Other readies for its Broadway bow. “It’s what I’ve been working my whole life for; it’s finally happening at age 42.”
Off-Broadway’s Yen, about two brothers who live without adult supervision, officially opens January 31. Significant Other opens March 2, and Six Degrees opens April 25.
He admits that he’s anxious, nervous, excited, grateful, and overwhelmed all at the same time, but “also, in a weird way, calm.”
“I’ve noticed, for the first time in my life, I have a little bit more of a sense that I know what I’m doing,” he laughs. “For maybe the first time, ever, I feel a little bit of confidence, so that’s a good thing… I think.”
How is he balancing it all? “It basically looks like the three stage managers, who are stage managing the three shows that I’m doing, just pointing me towards a door and pushing me out when I need to be somewhere else,” he says.
Despite the revolving doors, Cullman makes sure he is always present in the room.
“Mike Nichols, my mentor, always said to me, ‘Basically, what you have to do is prepare so, so hard for that first day of rehearsal—do all of your research, do all of your imagining and blocking in your head, and how these emotional moments get all put together—and then when you walk into that first day, throw it all away because it will be there still,’” Cullman explains. “If you’re just trying to achieve what you’ve already set up in your head, you won’t be alive to what’s happening in the room, so to me, I feel like that’s how I’m approaching this—being open to the impulses that are in the room.”
Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.