When director Sam Gold ’00 thinks about whether he wants to take on a new project, it’s all about the challenge of creating something meaningful.
“I want to start with what I believe in and care about, a subject matter that speaks to me or a formal challenge that pushes me as an artist,” he says.
Gold has received numerous accolades of late — including the Tony in June as best director for the musical “Fun Home” — and lots of requests from producers interested in working with him, but he said he continues to carefully choose his projects.
“There’s a specific kind of joy in directing a musical because the director is very much in the middle of everything and there’s a lot of adrenaline flowing,” he says. “But I still want to make a lot of different kinds of work.”
Gold joined the team working on “Fun Home” in 2011 after he met writer Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori at an Ohio writer’s retreat in 2009. The musical, which opened at the Circle in the Square Theatre in April 2015, is based on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel about her life growing up as the daughter of a funeral home director.
“They had a few songs and a very rough book,” he says about the state of the production when he signed on. “Because there are so many collaborators, musicals take a long time and a lot of stages of development. They don’t pop out of someone’s head already finished.
“And because of the ambition of that piece, its development was especially long and challenging. But it was a happy collaboration.”
Gold has received rave reviews for “Fun Home” from multiple sources, including The New York Times.
“The focus keeps changing in ‘Fun Home,’ directed with vivid precision and haunting emotional ambiguity by Sam Gold, as do the time-stopping frames of the woman whose memory we inhabit,” the Times review says.
“Sam Gold’s direction brings lucidity to the complex mechanics of staging a story that takes place in three time frames,” Variety says.
These accolades are only the latest in a career that shows the breadth of Gold’s interests. As a Cornell student, he directed 20th century classics from Beckett to Stoppard, before tackling “The House of Yes” his senior year, guiding a cast of professional actors at the Schwartz Center.
“I felt very lucky that I had these resources, so I was greedy and took full advantage of them,” Gold says.
That confidence comes in part from his experience in classes taught by David Feldshuh, professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts.
“The basic principles of script analysis and play structure that I got from David still really informs how I think about directing now,” Gold says.
While attaining a directing degree from Julliard, Gold spent three years as dramaturge/assistant director for Elizabeth LeCompte's Wooster Group. His other recent directing credits include “The Realistic Joneses,” “The Village Bike,” “The Real Thing,” “The Mystery of Love and Sex, “The Flick” and “John.”
While they don’t share a common theme, all of Gold’s projects focus on actor-driven work.
Gold says he’s been “lucky” lately, that his shows have been successful enough for him not to worry about finances, a constant struggle for directors.
“I always tell young directors a lot of specifics about the financial situation,” Gold says, adding that without a strong union, benefits, health insurance or pension, and sometimes not even a living wage, directing is a tough career path.
“I think you get a lot of advice about following your passion and your dreams,” he says, “but now I’m also prone to be practical with young artists.”
Up next for Gold? A production of “The Glass Menagerie” in Amsterdam and a national tour of “Fun Home.”