Three-time Tony winning director Jack O’Brien (Hairspray, Coast of Utopia) could probably rest on his laurels. He’s worked with everyone from Annette Bening to Ethan Hawke. Always smiling and devilishly clever, he’s choosing instead to hold on tight to his journeyman moniker. This summer, he’ll be making his East End debut at Bay Street Theater, helming a brandnew play, Alan Fox’s racially charged drama Safe Space.
How did this piece come to you? The play was offered to me for an in-house reading by my agent, which I share with the author. I was immediately taken with it and with his obvious talent.
Do you have a favorite memory of being in the Hamptons? I’m a Connecticut resident, so I tend to drift north, rather than east. I think I’ve been out to the theater at least once, but it was a long time ago.
What do you want audiences to take away? A brand-new awareness of a debuting playwright of extraordinary talent and insight. Secondarily, the awareness of just how lucky we are to have actors of such remarkable caliber walking and breathing among us.
As a director, what do you ideally want from your actors? Honesty, period. And perhaps a latent, modest sense of their own incipient spirituality. It helps with the honesty.
How would you define the director’s job? The project’s first audience. And its kindest. This current climate has us redefining political correctness.
How has that impacted your work? In a positive way, I hope. I’ve always had inordinate respect for different people, different cultures, and even the opposing sexes. But they have continued to unfold, and with that, so has my own responsibility and/ or awareness.
Safe Space, May 28-June 16, Bay Street Theater, Sag Harbor, baystreet.org
Photography by: O’BRIEN PORTRAIT BY WALTER MCBRIDE/WIREIMAGE; PLAY ARTWORK COURTESY OF BAY STREET THEATER