Meet Director – Brian Crook

You have been involved in many productions at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre both on and off stage, but this is your first time in the Director’s seat. Can you talk to us about what made you interested in directing?

Boy, have I. The Cabaret is my second home at this point, and I love that. To me, one of the most enriching experiences as an artist is taking letters, words, notes, etc. from the page and turning them into something you can see, hear, and feel. I do this in my daily life as a chorus teacher, and when I come to the Cabaret in the evenings, I do it here. It has been almost 12 years since I directed for the first time. I love acting, but there is truly no feeling like taking a vision, working all of the elements of that vision, and then watching it come alive right in front of you. There is nothing like witnessing your actors discover their character and how they fit into the big picture.

Do you prefer being on stage or offstage / -or- what are some of the differences between the two for you as an artist?

I don’t think I could possibly choose once and for all. As an actor, I love being able to really dig into my character and figure out what makes them tick. I love the rush backstage when it is almost curtain. I love the comradery with my fellow actors. As a director, guiding a team to tell a story and bring a vision to life is surreal and inspiring.

Had you read or watched A Raisin in the Sun prior and if so, did you take anything special/different out of it this time around?

I read Raisin in high school, so it had admittedly been a long time since I had taken it in. I was a very different person 15 years ago as a high school student than I am now. I have LIVED more. I have felt the things that these characters are feeling. In getting re-familiarized with this material, I was able to take my life experiences and really relate it to the characters. Every time I read the script, I find myself having an “aha moment” where I am able to connect some piece of my own life to the experiences on the page. It’s pretty thrilling. The story of the Youngers follows my own family’s journey pretty closely. My grandparents were turned away from purchasing a home in the neighborhood they wanted because of the color of their skin. My childhood was spent living in a community that began largely in part due to the discriminatory real estate practices of the 1950s. I may not have been there in person to witness this, but the trajectory of my young life was set because of it. It is only in recent years, after losing my grandparents and father, that I truly started to appreciate what they went through and how much PRIDE they had while striving to achieve their dream against all odds.

What has been your favorite production at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre so far (or choose a couple)?

Another tough one! My favorite that I have been in is the very first…Memphis. I was coming off of a nearly 3 year theatrical hiatus and was itching to be on stage again. In Bobby Dupree I found a lot of myself, and I had so much fun bringing him to life. My favorite that I have worked on (so far) would be Spring Awakening. As the Vocal Director for that production, I had the opportunity to work under the wise leadership of Julie Bell Petrak, and it became clear from day one that we just GOT each other. We had such a similar vision for the show and so it really made the process run like a well-oiled machine. It was very special to be able to help shape that production vocally.