Meet Craig Gustafson
My Three Angels Spotlight: Our Director
CRAIG GUSTAFSON is a long-time collaborator, actor, director and even playwright for Summer Place, and is well-known throughout the Chicago suburbs for directing and acting in many hit plays. He was last seen at the Summer Place playing Pseudolus in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” He recently is a playwright of “Lending a Hand” (published in “Best 10 Minute Plays of 2019”). Craig will next direct “August: Osage County” for Stage Coach Players and (in 2020) the world premiere comedy “The Angle of Mercy” for GreenMan Theatre Troupe. Craig is matrimonially ensconced with the daringly freckled & scandalously redheaded Margie.
We asked Craig a few questions about his background and interest in this show.
Q: Who or what inspired you to start doing theater
A: I was in a minstrel show in kindergarten – Tot ‘n’ Town Jamboree. This was during the Civil Rights movement in 1964, so we weren’t in blackface. I sang one of the big hits of 1918, Ja-Da.And now it’s an earworm, so thanks for bringing this up.“Ja da!Ja da!Ja da, Ja da, jing jing jing…”
Q: What was the first play you ever saw?
A: My mom worked at Addison Trail High School, so she got free tickets to all the shows.The first live show my sister and I ever saw was the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.The first play was Arsenic and Old Lace.Much, much later, I played Bud Frump in How to Succeed… and (at the Summer Place), Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace.
The first professional show I saw was a high school field trip to the Organic Theatre Company in Hull House.It was their first show in Chicago, Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.I was a total theater snob as a kid and resented a storefront theater without a formal stage and proscenium.And I didn’t realize until I looked it up online just now that I saw Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz and Meshach Taylor.
Q: What is on your bucket list to direct?
A: One is coming up – the world premiere comedy The Angle of Mercy at GreenMan Theatre Troupe in Elmhurst next spring.Also, Desperate Measures, a musical my wife and I saw off-Broadway last year.It’s Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, set in the old West.Small cast, hilarious script, great music.Won all kinds of awards.It’d be a great Summer Place show, in fact.That and Reefer Madness, which is one of my favorite musicals.It’s R-rated, so I don’t see the Summer Place picking that one up.But if they did, I’d direct it in a heartbeat.
Q: Most challenging part of bringing this story to life?
A: The most challenging part will be seeing how a basically realistic set works in a rental space. We can’t nail anything to the floor – and it has to be really solid, or there’s an aspect that won’t be safe for the actors.
Q: What is the favorite show you've ever directed?
A: Ugh. That’s a really tough one. I’ve been lucky enough to have had relatively few bombs (*cough* Angel Street *cough*). In 2010 I had two Golden Shows in a row, Chicago and The Drowsy Chaperone – huge ticket sales, audiences loved them and the casts/crews were dream teams. Let’s round out the top five with Crumbs in Bed, The Producers and Waiting for Godot. And Silent Laughter. And Noises Off. Okay, top ten… The Pillowman, Assassins and Mingle, Among the Demons. And… no. I’ll stop now. Usually the cast is worn out and happy to see the show end, even if they love doing it. Noises Off and The Drowsy Chaperone were the only shows where cast members were begging me to figure out a way to keep the run of the show going.
Q: Are you new to the Summer Place?
A: Nope. The last show I did there was playing Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I was in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Linus), My Emperor’s New Clothes (Mr. Screech), Arsenic and Old Lace (Dr. Einstein) and Twelve Angry Men (Juror #2). I directed The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, The Nerd and Tartuffe. And I wrote the book, music & lyrics for 1992’s Alice in Wonderland.
Q: If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A: John Cleese. Or Jennifer Lawrence.
Q: What do you do when you’re not doing theater?
A: I write; for the theater, so I’m kind of dodging the question. My ten minute plays have been produced in a few competitions. I’ll most likely be directing three of them for Yippiefest in Chicago later this summer. And my play Lending a Hand has just been published in an anthology, Best Ten Minute Plays of 2019.
Q: Which character from My Three Angels would you most like to have dinner with and why?
A: Felix, the hapless shopkeeper. I could get him to pay for dinner.
Q: Why should people come see this production of My Three Angels?
A: Because it’s funny. I could probably stretch that out into a huge paragraph, but the first sentence covers it. It’s a very funny show.
Come meet us in person at any of our My Three Angel performances!
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