Jack in the Box: or, How to Goddamn Direct (Hardcover)
The Tony Award–winning director gathers memories of people, productions, and problems surmounted from his fifty-year career in this one-of-a-kind how-to handbook.
What do directors do? Jack O’Brien, the winner of Tony and Drama Desk Awards and the former artistic director of San Diego’s historic Old Globe theatre, describes it like this: “You stand before a situation in which something is presented to you. You’re afforded a challenge. Like catching an enormous ball. And you respond. You come up with a vision of some kind. That is, if you respond to the material at all, and one must, or it’s doomed. You sort of feel that since you relate to the material at hand, you might as well try to be helpful.”
In Jack in the Box, O’Brien’s follow-up to his memoir Jack Be Nimble, the director collects stories from the many productions he has worked on, the great talents he encountered and collaborated with (including Tom Stoppard, Mike Nichols, Jerry Lewis, Marsha Mason, and many others), and the choices he made, on the stage and off, that have come to define his career. With humor, warmth, and contagious excitement, O’Brien takes the reader by the shoulder, pulls them in, and tells them how to become a director—or, at the very least, relates an unfailingly honest story of how he did.
“One of the greatest experiences of my life was being in a rehearsal room with Jack O'Brien. Listening to Jack passionately discuss art and the value of placing life on stage is galvanizing. In Jack's eyes, every failure can be a triumph; every success, the entry point for disaster. His love for all things creative fills life with a holy purpose. Miraculously, this book—Jack in the Box—translates this magic onto the page. As a memoirist, Jack hypnotizes the reader with real stories from the spider web of his artistic life, and humbly documents how he has played in every corner of the American theatre. The book is illuminating, insightful, and essential." —Ethan Hawke
"With his customary wit and elegant style, Jack O'Brien confronts the age old question of directors, 'What exactly do you do?' and then proceeds to write the most candid, eloquent, hilarious and moving explanation I've ever read on the subject, while also taking you on the roller coaster ride of a storied career in the American theater, regaling you with his extraordinary adventures. A must-read for anyone in the profession or hoping to become a member." —Nathan Lane
""If you were to create a master class on directing for the theater, your textbook would have to be Jack O’Brien’s Jack in the Box. —David L. Coddon, The San Diego Tribune
"Part memoir, part how-to guide, with more than enough juicy backstage anecdotes to keep readers entertained, this book is the perfect companion for any theater lover. If you don’t know who Jack O’Brien is, he provides an accessible, informative overview of his life in the theater, and if you’re already a fan, you’ll finish this book with a newfound respect for a living legend. It’s a charming, utterly delightful read that flies by." —Farrah Penn, Buzzfeed
"The title of Jack O’Brien’s delightful memoir promises a handbook for novice theater directors. That’s only a fraction of what it exuberantly delivers. Two chapters in, the book explodes with an abundance of anecdotes and portraits—of George Abbott, Neil Simon, Mike Nichols, Tom Stoppard, Andrew Lloyd Webber and many more—from O’Brien’s wildly prolific career. He parades his successes and anatomizes his disasters with the same degree of storytelling glee. Take it from an actor who has had the Jack O’Brien experience: this is a show you don’t want to miss." —John Lithgow
“Fifty years of experience, fifty years of wisdom, fifty years of theater lore–all rolled into one. Every aspiring director should read this useful and delightful book!” —André Bishop, Artistic Director of Lincoln Center Theater
"O’Brien’s lessons glitter brightly in their history and wisdom, but it is his warm, chatty writing that inevitably steals the show." —Chris Roemer, Library Journal (Starred Review)
"An entertaining, colorful, generous panorama of the stage and its luminaries." —Publishers Weekly
"With relatable, fluid stories, O'Brien effectively demystifies the art of directing." —Kirkus Reviews
"Jack O’Brien tells us the who (dazzling, sometimes difficult) and the what (American theater for 50 years) with witty candor, great insight and wonderfully unfiltered details. Even better, for all of us theater nerds, leading lights and aspiring directors—he does, actually, tell us how, like no one else can." —Amy Bloom, author of In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
"Jack in the Box, Jack O’Brien‘s follow up to his entertaining, fascinating, and pretty much delectable Jack Be Nimble, is equally sublime. O’Brien describes his craft—the subtitle is Or, How to Goddamn Direct—with tales of gratifying success and disappointing (if entertaining) failure. He lavishes praise, mixed with keen personal insight, on the likes of Tom Stoppard, Neil Simon, and Mike Nichols; while modestly downplaying his own exquisite work (which includes The Invention of Love, Hairspray, and the unforgettably luminous Coast of Utopia). All told, a marvelously witty overview by a man for all—or, thus far, forty—seasons." —Steven Suskin, author of Offstage Observations: Inside Tales of the Not-So-Legitimate Theatre