Daryl Roth is an icon in the theatrical world. Beautiful, soft-spoken, and extremely talented, Daryl has the prestigious distinction of having produced seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays! Celebrity Parents had the privilege to speak exclusively with Daryl in her theater, The Daryl Roth Theater, about life, love, and the theater world.
How did you become involved in the world of theater?
I became a producer almost 23 years ago. I began this career because I loved theater so much. My children were already a little older and in school, so I felt that I could devote time to immerse myself in the world of theater. I wanted to see where I belonged; I didn’t want to be an actress or a technical person. I knew, though, that I was pretty good at putting things together. As a mom, we know how to put things together and to do it with care and concern for everyone involved.
I wanted to figure out a way to do things that were valuable. I didn’t even know what a producer did, but I said, “Let me try.” By the stroke of luck, doors opened for me, and I had the confidence to push open those doors to see what would happen.
What was your first play?
In 1988, I met two people who were working on what was then called “trunk songs”. We took the play, Closer than Ever, to Williamstown, and then brought it to the Cherry Lane Theater, where it ran for 9 months. To this day, I still have a warm spot in my heart for it. From there, I went on to do more plays and dramas. I’ve received a lot of awards and celebration, including seven Pulitzers! It is a record I am happy to hold.
It was, again, that open door. I was walking around the Union Square neighborhood one day. I went to NYU; this was my old stomping grounds. I had always admired this building, and on that day, I saw a For Sale sign in front. At the time, I had been doing a lot of Off-Broadway producing, and the plays were just blooming. There were actually more plays than theaters for them to be shown in. And I had always had it in my mind to have a theater.
After seeing that this building (which was once a landmark bank building) was available, I went home to talk to my wonderful husband about it. I said, “Wonderful husband, I saw a sign on the Union Square bank building. What do you think?” He had known that I had my eye open for a small space that I could fix up and make into a theater. The owners of the building had wanted to turn it into a nightclub, but their permit had been rejected. They were happy to have an inquiry from someone who wanted to put a lovely theater in the space!
How long did the process take?
It took about a year. The main theater did not have seats, and had very high ceilings, which it still does today. This turned out to be perfect for De La Guarda, which made its home here for seven years. We never built out the theater, and now Fuerza Bruta (which I call De La Guarda’s first cousin since they are similar!), currently plays there. Fuerza Bruta is a wonderful show; it is a group experience in the truest sense. It has wonderful music, and is very exciting.
And the theater that you and I are currently sitting in right now was constructed after the fact. It was actually a garage, which is funny, since Dear Edwina, our children’s play which is set to debut this coming Friday, takes place in a garage, too.
What was the impetus for you to begin a children’s program?
I wanted to introduce my grandchildren to theater in the very best way possible. I took them to shows that were age-appropriate, and they loved it. I started thinking, “I have this wonderful theater, I should be doing good quality musical theater so that I can introduce kids, like my grandchildren, to theater.” We’ve had a wonderful time with the children’s program.
Your touch as a producer is quite motherly and gentle. You don’t necessarily associate that with a producer’s role.
It’s so easy to feel motherly, especially when we cast Dear Edwina. They’re young kids, and for many, they are making their debuts. It’s both a scary and wonderful opportunity for them. They auditioned with many, many people. I wish we could have cast them all! It’s very easy to want to give the actors a hug and give them the best experience they can have. We have a great staff and they also have that same level of compassion.
What is it that you personally love about theater?
That’s a long list! I love that theater can open your eyes to opportunity, to ideas and to the way people think that might be different from your own views. I love how it can make you feel emotionally challenged and intellectually stimulated at the same time. Theater can give you an experience that you can have personally and simultaneously share with the audience. It is unique for everyone there. It’s the relationship with what’s being said, and how you receive it. Theater is a very safe way for you to experience emotion and ideas that you might be afraid to knock on the door of. For me, it’s almost religious. People say that theater is their temple. What goes on in a theater can be sacred for some people.
I like how it’s something that adults and children can enjoy together.
Exactly. Seeing something and enjoying it with your family is great. I know how much I have loved taking my children, and now my grandchildren, to the theater. It’s precious time to spend with them. There’s nothing better.
With such a busy schedule, how do you find time to balance work and family?
A lot of my time is devoted to my work, and my family is always a part of my work. I never say the two are exclusive.
It’s so nice how you’ve blended the two.
That’s what I love about my job as a producer. I shared a lot of it with my children when they were growing up, and now as adults with children of their own. Theater is something you can – and should – share with family.