As previously reported in this blog, nationally acclaimed theatre director David Cromer, a former Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department student and faculty member, was an honoree and speaker at the 2017 Columbia College Chicago commencement. Cromer spoke to graduating seniors from the Theatre, Dance, Television, Audio Arts and Acoustics, and Creative Arts Therapies departments on Saturday, May 13, at the historic Auditorium Theatre in downtown Chicago. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the college, presented by Columbia College president Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim. The college has posted a video of Cromer’s commencement speech — as well as his introduction by his former classmate, Columbia alum Stephanie Shaw ’92 , now a Theatre Department faculty member — and we are privileged to share it:
Originally from the Chicago area and now based in New York, David Cromer has been associated with Columbia College Chicago since the fall of 1982, when he began as an Acting major in what was then the Theatre/Music Department. In the late 1980s, he returned to Columbia to study directing and returned again in the early ’90s to teach. While still a student, Cromer was afforded multiple opportunities to work professionally by the faculty of the college. When Cromer began directing plays professionally in Chicago, he continued the tradition of using Columbia as a major resource for new, energized, fearless talent. Cromer was also a part-time faculty member at Columbia for 15 years before he relocated to New York.
As a director, Cromer has been lauded for his innovative take on such classic American plays as Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, William Inge’s Picnic, and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as his stewardship of critically acclaimed new works, including the musicals Adding Machine and The Band’s Visit. He has received multiple awards for his work as a director, including:
- Joseph Jefferson Awards (Chicago): for Director – Play (Angels in America, Parts I and II, 1998; The Price, Writers Theatre, 2002; The Cider House Rules: Part I and The Cider House Rules: Part II, 2003; Our Town, 2009);
- Obie Awards (Off-Broadway): for Director (Adding Machine, 2008; Our Town, 2009);
- Lucille Lortel Awards (Off-Broadway): for Outstanding Director (Adding Machine, 2008 — the production also won the Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical; Our Town, 2009 — the production also won the Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival; When the Rain Stops Falling, 2010).
He also directed an acclaimed 2011 Broadway production of John Guare’s comedy The House of Blue Leaves, starring Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Edie Falco, for which Falco received the 2011 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.
Besides Chicago and New York, he has worked in Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and London. In 2010, he was named a MacArthur Fellow, receiving a so-called “Genius Grant” from Chicago’s prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. His MacArthur Fellow citation read: “David Cromer is a theater director and actor who is reinvigorating classic American plays and illuminating their relationship to the present. His incisive interpretations of the twentieth-century repertoire honor the original intention of each work while providing audiences with more psychologically complex performances than previous renderings.”