New York City’s theater community, hard hit by the pandemic, continues to find innovative ways to engage with audiences. Cheryl Faraone, producing artistic director of the Potomac Theatre Project (PTP/NYC) since 1986, is part of that movement. She will be directing PTP/NYC’s upcoming virtual stream of Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, as part of the company’s 34th repertory season of steaming plays. Far Away premieres at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, on PTP/NYC’s You Tube Channel. After the Thursday premiere, the stream will be available through Sunday evening, October 18.
Confronting our deepest fears, Caryl Churchill’s extraordinary play depicts a chilling world where everyone is at war, and not even the birds in the trees or the river below can be trusted.
Faraone’s directing credits in New York include The After-Dinner Joke, Arcadia, Vinegar Tom, Serious Money, Pentecost, Lovesong of the Electric Bear, Territories, Crave, and The Politics of Passion: the Plays of Anthony Minghella. During PTP’s time in Washington, D.C., she directed work by Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard and Shelagh Stephenson, among others.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
My career, or at least the one I’ve pursued for the last 40 years, is a dual/deeply interlinked one. I am a professor of theatre (at Middlebury College in Vermont) where I have taught since 1986, and a producer/director in the professional theatre. I have co-founded and run two companies in New York and Washington, D.C., and done free-lance work for a number of others.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
Theatre had always been my career choice; I can’t even pinpoint how I arrived at that decision. Teaching theatre has deeply, deeply enriched my connection to the art form, entwining past (history), the present (what I am doing at the moment) and the future, as embodied in the students over the years. Teaching is also a participation in a growing, shifting ensemble – part of what’s important to me in theatre.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I took classes at community theatres, started doing summer theatre internships when I was 16, and majored in theatre as an undergrad. Then I went into grad programs and took various theatre jobs, backstage, box offices, etc.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
Probably mostly discouraging. I don’t think I paid much attention
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
When did your career reach a tipping point?
After running a small Off Off Broadway theatre for a number of years and continuing with survival jobs in theatre, I (with my husband) had to decide whether to combine teaching at the college level with professional theatre. It was the right decision.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
The challenge of hewing to an artistic vision and also staying afloat.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
Tenacity and the ability to communicate.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The creation with others of an ensemble and ethos that has existed and burgeoned for four decades. I mean this in the classroom as well as inside a theatre. I’m blindingly proud of the students I have taught.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Of course look for mentors, but have your own values and reasons for doing what is essential to you. It can’t be built on someone else’s beliefs. And try to ensure that any ‘day’ job you take will in some way provide skills and knowledge you can continue to use