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Ethan McSweeny

Less than a decade after becoming Columbia College's first graduate in drama and theatre arts, a major he helped to develop, Ethan McSweeny, class of 1993 already has directed his first Broadway show, Gore Vidal's The Best Man, currently in a limited run.

"It was unforgettable, unrepeatable, and mostly unprintable," McSweeny says of his initial experience working on the Great White Way. "I had a stupendous cast, each with a unique artistic personality. And I had unbelievable dinner discussions with Gore [Vidal]."

How does the young director explain his quick rise to one of the most prestigious jobs in the theater?

"Enormously fortunate luck and timing," McSweeny answers.

The New York Times called the show "a hit," and according to the New York Post, "The present production is made all the more welcome by Ethan McSweeny's fast-paced staging and a sweetly balanced cast."

So where does McSweeny go after directing on Broadway? Back to work. He directed a production of Wit for the Pittsburgh Public Theater that opened Nov. 16, and he is now working on a new play called Tamincanfly that opens in January. The new comedy about a racehorse will be performed at the McGinn/Cazale Theater on the Upper West Side.

Most of his practical training came after graduation, when he returned to Washington and spent four years working as assistant director of The Shakespeare Theatre under Kahn.

"Theater, I think, is one of the last professions where the apprentice position is alive and strong," McSweeny says. At The Shakespeare Theater, he directed over two dozen plays, many Shakespearean, between 1993-97, also aiding in casting. He credits that time as teaching him how a theater operates.

In 1997, he landed his first engagement as a director at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., little knowing it would catapult him (and the show) to rave reviews Off Broadway.

Written by: Laura Butchy

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