December 2011 Newsletter - Spotlight

Cynthia Croot is the newest member of the Department of Theatre Arts faculty, and we wanted to see how she was adjusting to Pittsburgh and what inspires her to work in theatre every day. 


Q: How did you get interested in theatre, or what sparked your interest in a career in theatre?

Cynthia: I come from a family of storytellers – deep sea divers, cross-continental hikers, concert violin players, carpenter accordionists, Spanish-Dutch plumbers, intrepid Idaho homesteaders and many other deeply funny, humane, and loving people.  I think storytelling on stage is a natural extension of the joy one finds in family, in community. It is an act of generosity as much as it is an act of creation.  Some pivotal performances I witnessed which helped me catch the bug: Lawrence Olivier’s Lear  (on TV when I was 6 or 7), and Pierre Chabert performing Krapps Last Tape in French during my undergrad education.  I couldn’t understand the language, but I could feel what he felt.  It was mesmerizing and irresistible.


Q: What has been your favorite project that you've worked on?

Cynthia: I’m always smitten with what is right in front of me – so no favorite shows, per se.  But looking back, several projects have brought very important collaborators into my life.  I’m grateful to a production of Julie Jensen’s White Money for introducing me to long time design collaborator David M. Barber, for instance.  And I have deep, abiding friendships that have grown out of work in NYC, South Africa, Alaska and Syria. 


Q: Do you have a "dream project?" A particular play or process that you want to bring to life?

Cynthia: Yes.  But it is a secret right now.


Q: What are you excited about working on while you're here at Pitt, either on stage or in the classroom?

Cynthia: City of Asylum promises to be an exciting venture next season, a great opportunity to bring to life the stories of political/literary refuge-seekers from Burma, China, El Salvador and Venezuela. I’m also thrilled to be teaching a class on Theatre and War next semester, and in the fall of next year, a course on Devising, and a Viewpoints Collaboration Course for actors and directors.


Q: Do your philosophies of directing and teaching overlap or inform each other?

Cynthia: I don’t tend to separate ideas that way – I think there's an effortless flow from the classroom to the stage and back again.  Success in both arenas rests on a foundation of mutual trust, impeccable work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and rigor.  I think life is a classroom - and a stage - and if you’re awake, it all reverberates.


Q: What's your favorite thing about Pittsburgh so far?

Cynthia:  So many things… my little apartment in Lawrenceville, the view from my office window (you really should come see it), the vibrant arts scene, the long, luxurious, meditative train ride to NYC.  I love the history of the region, the myriad voices that reside here, and the accomplished, heartfelt work of the students I’ve already gotten to meet.  I love the feel of this city – the steel backbone, and the resilient spirit.  I feel lucky to be here.


Q: Have you lived anywhere else that might prepare you for the Pittsburgh winter?

Cynthia: Chicago?  Juneau?  Idaho?  I bought galoshes.  I’m ready.