Name: Sammy Jungwirth
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Education: George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology
Favorite Credits: Stage Manager- Disaster; Director- Zelda
Why theater?: Theatre is the most collaborative art form in the world. There are so many aspects of it that I feel make it unlike anything else. I get so inspired by every production I see and every artist I meet. As a director/designer, I love working with my fellow creative team members on crafting the world of the show and making the characters come to life. Whether if it’s with shows I’m directing or designing, I try to come up with something unique that the audience hasn’t seen before.
Tell us about Zelda: In the summer of 2020, I came across the pro-shot of a forgotten west-end musical from the early 2000’s called “The Beautiful and Damned” on YouTube. It was a biographical musical that took you through the tragic story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The video had under 100 views, but at the time, I had set a goal for myself to discover as many musicals I was unfamiliar with as I possibly could, so I clicked on it. By the end of the night, I had found a new favorite musical. The next day I contacted one of the show’s producers and asked why no one had done the show since this initial production. To my surprise he emailed me back and told me that though the audience response was very enthusiastic, London critics disliked the show so it closed after only 3 months. After a few email exchanges, I nervously emailed him and asked him if I could single-handedly bring the show to America through a staged concert. After checking with the writers, he agreed. After that I spent a year assembling 14 of Baltimore’s most talented actors and a wonderful creative team full of my frequent collaborators and put together Zelda. The production will be in Concert at 54 Below on August 22nd.
What inspired you to direct Zelda?: When you think about the Jazz Age, you think F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. They were the model of glamor, beauty, and sophistication. But underneath all that, was a romance that was doomed to fail. I believe their tragic story still fascinates to us today because it is a major example of how things aren’t always what they seem, and there can be two sides of the same coin.
What kind of theatre speaks to you? Who inspires you as an artist?: My favorite type of theatre is when people take risks or try out a new avant-garde concept. I have always been inspired by Julie Taymor, Ivo Van Hove, and Diane Paulus just to name a few.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with who would it be?: One of the designers I look up to the most is Beowulf Boritt, who won a Tony for his set for the Broadway play “Act One” and has been nominated several times since then. We met a while back and he has become somewhat of a mentor to me and I would love to work with him in some capacity.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: Broadway: Some Like it Hot at the Shubert Theatre (seen 4 times), Off-Broadway: Michael R. Jackson’s White Girl in Danger at Second Stage (seen 3 times).
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: That’s a good question, I’ve always like the title “In the Limelight”. I used it for an early screenplay I wrote back at the height of the pandemic. I think it sounds very theatrical. As to who would play be, I think (or at least I like to think) I have the same sense of humor as Jason Bateman, he’s one of my favorite actors and I would love to be portrayed by him.
If you could go back and time and see any play or musical that you missed, what would it be?: I would love to see Glenn Close in the original Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard, as well as Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria. Those are two of my favorite musicals that I’ve only ever seen through bootlegs on YouTube (though I recently saw Stephanie J. Block portray Norma Desmond brilliantly at the Kennedy Center).
What is your favorite guilty pleasure: Watching TV all hours of the night. Not sure if that counts!
What’s up next?: I will be directing Grey Gardens this fall through my brand new theatre company I started with local actor Xander Conte called CJ Productions.