Out100: John Tiffany
By Out.com Editors
Photography by M. Sharkey
Tiffany was studying chemistry at Glasgow University in Scotland when he saw Tectonic Plates, by the Canadian playwright, actor, and director Robert LePage, and found himself transfixed and transformed. “LePage created the skyline of Manhattan out of piles of books in a Montreal library, and the magic of that really excited me,” Tiffany recalls. “I thought, I want to do that.”
And Tiffany has, directing a string of stage productions with a fierce flair for physicality and pacing, including the visceral Iraq drama Black Watch and his current Broadway hit, Once, which grabbed eight Tony Awards earlier this year. Next, Tiffany heads to Cambridge, Mass., to direct The Glass Menagerie with leads Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto. What he’ll do with Tennessee Williams’s classic family drama is anyone’s guess, but if it’s anything like his recent reworking of Macbeth -- in which Alan Cumming played all the roles -- one thing you can check at the door are your preconceptions.
“Actors should be athletes,” Tiffany says of his staging method. “Audiences love seeing actors work.” That is certainly the case in Black Watch. Like War Horse -- another British export -- it creates the illusion of battle through movement and sound that puts Broadway’s dependence on special effects–laden shows to shame. There’s a similar quality in Once, his adaptation of the hit indie film that limns the romance between two folk musicians in Dublin. “I loved that kind of music being on Broadway,” he says. “It’s very unshowy -- there are no glitter guns in the production. The more digitized life gets, the more excited I get about live performance acknowledging its live-ness.”